Project title: Ultrasonic microbubbles as an advanced therapy for drug delivery in bone repair
Supervisory Team: Nicholas Evans (FEPS), Janos Kanczler (FOM), Simon Tilley (FOM and NHS) and Dario Carugo (UCL)
Bone fractures are a huge problem. A big part of this problem comes from non-union or delayed-union fractures, which affect about 5-10% of cases. These poorly healing bone fractures are devastating for the person affected, sometimes taking many years of major surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Despite this, there are very limited drugs available which are known to improve bone fracture healing.
We hypothesise that getting the right drug to the right place at the right time is an extremely important consideration in bone healing, and is part of the reason why current candidate drugs have failed.
To solve this problem, we are investigating ultrasound-responsive microbubbles as a way to deliver drugs locally in fracture healing. They can be injected in the blood, and stimulated with sound when they flow through a tissue of interest. Ultrasound-responsive microbubbles (MBs) have been used clinically since the 1990s as contrast agents for imaging. Due to the fact that they are gas filled, microbubbles reflect significantly more ultrasound energy than surrounding fluid-filled tissues. This distinctive ‘echo’ is the reason why they can be detected when flowing through the blood vessels of ultrasound-imaged tissues. They are presently safely and widely used, including here in Southampton General Hospital, for imaging of patients.
However, when MBs are exposed to ultrasound, they ex-and and contract at specific resonance frequencies. This phenomenon is analogous to the vibrations that an opera singer might induce in a glass. The rapid oscillations can produce significant forces on structures in the immediate vicinity of MBs. Our collaborators have exploited these effects to increase the movement of weakly cell permeable molecules, e.g. proteins and nucleic acids, through cell membranes. Such technology is now under development for delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs or molecules to tumour sites. It remains unknown whether this method may be suitable for stimulating drug delivery in bone fracture.
During this PhD you will try and find an answer to this question. You will use a range of state-of-the-art techniques in acoustics, tissue culture and cellular imaging to measure and uptake of comounds, and molecular methods to determine their effect on target cells and tissues.
You will work in a vibrant, multidisciplinary team between the Medicine and Engineering departments at the University of Southampton, and in collaboration with the University of Oxford. You need to have at least a 2:1 or equivalent and you will have any of the natural sciences.
A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).
Closing date: 31 August 2022 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.
Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £15,609 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.
How To Apply
Apply online: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses/how-to-apply/postgraduate-applications.page. Select programme type (Research), 2022/23, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Nicholas Evans
Applications should include:
- Curriculum Vitae
- Two reference letters
- Degree Transcripts to date
For further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org