Sunday 23 October 2016

3D printed muscles and tendons among world changing medical devices being developed in Ireland

Published 27/09/2016 | 10:25

Professor Abhay Pandit. Photo:Andrew Downes, xposure.
Professor Abhay Pandit. Photo:Andrew Downes, xposure.
CUARAM GALWAY NUIG. Photo:Andrew Downes, xposure.

3D printed muscles and tendons, a jelly to repair disc damage and instantaneously stopping blood loss during surgery are some of the world changing devices currently being developed in Ireland.

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The €68m Cúram centre is developing medical devices which mimic the body’s biology, working on a range of chronic ailments as well as treatments for injury and to assist in surgeries. 

Cúram, based at NUI, Galway, which was officially opened yesterday will be a global hub of research expertise in medical device technology.

Among the projects being explored is the creation of  3D muscles and tendons to help repair injuries in athletes which could be available in under a decade.

The team is also making huge breakthroughs in back pain. It is developing a jelly-like system which can mimic the environment within the damaged disc, which could be used medically within six years.

Shorter term projects which may come to fruition within the next 18 months include devices to stop bleeding in a surgical suite.

“We are working with an industry partner and we’ve just finished a clinical trial in that space where we show that the formulation we are working with stops bleeding instantaneously so it reduces the surgical time and the patient time on the table,” said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of Cúram.

Researchers are also working on treating illnesses such as diabetes without the need for constant injections.

A total of 250 researchers will push scientific frontiers to advance medical devices for chronic diseases including diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease.

Prof Pandit said chronic diseases are the particular focus of the research. 

“Working with industry partners and clinicians, we will better understand the ‘hostile environment’ of the body and advance medical devices to the next stage where they mimic the body’s biology. We want to launch devices which are more effective for the individual patient, but more affordable to lessen the burden on healthcare systems worldwide,” he said.

“In the long-term we may have minimally invasive injections instead of operations for back pain, electrodes which degrade within the body over time, or 3D printed muscles and tendons. This will not happen overnight, but the unparalleled combination of scientific, industry and clinical and regulatory expertise which Cúram facilitates will get us there in the coming years,” he added.

The centre was officially opened by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who said the work was not only transforming lives but transforming the whole world’s medical history.

The Irish medtech industry employs 29,000 people. Cúram represents investment of €49 million over six years from Science Foundation Ireland and industry. 

In the past 18 months this support has already been used to leverage a further €19 million in funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, over €4.3 million of which has been awarded directly to indigenous Irish industry.

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