PhD Studentship: Development of a Novel Minimally Invasive Concept for the Treatment of Arthritis

University of Southampton - Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

Ageing of the population will dominate the cost burden to health services in the coming decades. This trend is likely to continue due to the increased demands placed on the joint by people who expect to maintain their active lifestyles later in life. The surgical reconstruction or replacement of joints, (arthroplasties) are primarily performed on frail, elderly patients who often have pre-existing medical conditions, exacerbating the risks of adverse effects of the anaesthesia and the surgical procedure. Innovative, cost effective treatments for degenerative bone diseases, without the need to remove healthy bone, or at the very least, minimise disruption to the joint, are required. The proposed project aims to develop an innovative, minimally invasive compliant medical device that will act as a cushion between affected joints while maintaining the natural movement of the joint. The device is similar to a gel/fluid filled sac that effectively operates as a 3D caterpillar track preventing sliding movement at the joint surfaces, reducing friction and pain, and eliminating further damage of the cartilage. In the research, you will be tasked with five main objectives with the potential to extend the capability of the device depending on progress. These include (i) researching the literature to decide on design foundations, case studies, patient selection criteria; (ii) identifying the most suitable joints and establishing the design requirements for each of these potential applications; (iii) materials – selection of outer sac material and associated coating / surface modification, together with internal gel/fluid development; (iv) manufacturing of the sac/gel concept; (v) mechanical verification of device.

This technology could lead to a step change in the way arthritis is treated. We are looking for a motivated, enthusiastic individual with a can-do attitude to help us realise this vision.

The research has the support of two SMEs, with whom the successful candidate will work closely, and visits to the SMEs will form part of the programme of work. We also have a clinician team who will advise on concept, delivery and implantation of the device.

The successful candidate will have a strong background in materials engineering or polymer chemistry, with an interest in manufacturing and design. A degree in these or related disciplines would be appropriate.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Martin Browne, Bioengineering Science research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 3279.

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South East England