Pharmacy academic takes nanomedicine research global
15 August 2013
University of Sydney Faculty of Pharmacy researcher, Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski, has gained international attention for his ground-breaking work on biomaterial technologies, an area that seeks to enhance the integration between human cells and surgical implants.
Dr Chrzanowski's research into a microscopic biochemical 'braille' concept netted him first prize in the poster presentation category at the inaugural International Translational Nanomedicine Conference at Northeastern University in Boston, USA in July this year.
Meanwhile, Dr Chrzanowski was also recently named a recipient of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitational Fellowships for Foreign Researchers 2013 - an extremely competitive and prestigious appointment promoting international scientific cooperation.
He will travel to Japan in November to collaborate with world-leading biomaterial scientists Professor Tadashi Kokubo (Chubu University) and Professor BJ Kim (Tokyo University).
The project will focus on understanding and improving the way cells interact with the biomaterials of implant surfaces, and enable the development of novel biomaterials, nanotherapeutics and technologies for studying these interactions.
The research will seek to develop a unique braille-inspired system to make implants surfaces more 'readable' for cells and therefore improve their integration and function in the body.
"I am honoured and very excited to receive this level of recognition, with both the award from the Translational Nanomedicine conference and the JSPS Fellowship," Dr Chrzanowski said.
"I'm looking forward to continuing my research in collaboration with one of the most recognised biomaterials scientists and engage in new research at Tokyo University."
Nanomedicine, a relatively young scientific field (at little more than a decade old), has so far yielded promising outcomes, but few commercial products.
However, there is still an exciting surge of activity in nanomedicine, with new exciting avenues of research revealing great future potential applications, such as Dr Chrzanowski's braille-inspired surfaces.
Translational aspects of nanomedicine were the major subject of discussion during the first annual International Translational Nanomedicine Conference, hosted by Northeastern University in Boston and sponsored by the International Journal of Nanomedicine.
"The conference reinforced the fact that nanomedicine research is still incredibly active and ripe for forming products," said conference chair Professor Thomas Webster.
Professor Webster highlighted the fundamental role of research and the need for integrated efforts in this area; "If we don't even understand the mechanism of how things are working, how are we going to convince the Federal Drug Administration to insert our materials?" he said.
The conference was an opportunity for researchers from around the world to share their work with colleagues and push closer towards understanding how to translate the many potential opportunities into real-life beneficial products and solutions.
The Faculty of Pharmacy's Dr Chrzanowski attracted particular attention for his work, which focused on guiding cellular responses using biochemical signals incorporated into the surfaces of devices.
His poster presentation won an award and generated lively discussion amongst the attendees.
"I feel very humbled to receive the first prize for my work and I was delighted to discuss my work with researchers who came for the conference from around the world," said Dr Chrzanowski.
"In fact, attending this meeting on its own was an award and privilege. This conference has been instrumental to conceive new research ideas and collaborations, which will advance the field of nanomedicine." he said.
It's what's on the surface that counts
Behind Dr Chrzanowski's award-winning research is the simple and brilliant concept of braille - the physical language of bumps developed in 1824 to help visually-impaired people read.
Dr Chrzanowski's prestigious JPRS Fellowship will allow him and collaborative researchers to better understand how a braille-inspired concept could be exploited on the smallest possible level, for the smallest possible audience - cells.
Applying this to idea to optimise surgical implants could prove to be incredibly beneficial to patients' lives and the national health system.
"There is an urgent need for a technology that is capable of improving implant integration, particularly in countries with rapidly aging populations, such as Australia," said Dr Chrzanowski.
For example, in the US, a high number of trauma incidents each year results in around six million fractures requiring implantable fixation devices.
"The implantation of metal devices into tissue carries a high risk of post-operative complications, which are caused by poor integration of the implant and biofilm formation," Dr Chrzanowski explained.
"These are regarded as the most dreaded complications in orthopedics, resulting in repeat surgeries, patient distress and disability, and increased cost and utilisation of medical resources," he said.
"Recent data shows the number of revision operations in Australia is steadily increasing at a rate of around six percent per annum."
Seeking a solution, Dr Chrzanowski turned his attention to the physical and chemical nature of implants, specifically observing the effect of modifications to implant surface characteristics.
These characteristics could include the implant's topography (ie. patterns, rough surfaces); chemistry (eg. oxidations and hydroxyapatite coatings); and its functionalisation with bioactive molecules, such as antibiotics and proteins, that are tethered to the surface.
Dr Chrzanowski's JPRS Fellowship will team him with Professor Tadashi Kokubo from Chubu University to create innovative, multifunctional (as opposed to currently-developed single modulation) surfaces which simultaneously control, regulate, prevent or trigger specific biological reactions, such as cell adhesion or differentiation and prevention of bacteria colonisation.
A new metallic biomaterial developed in Japan, which outperforms currently-used alloys, will be used in the project.
"This fellowship builds on our preliminary results and utilises the unique expertise of both Chubu University and the University of Sydney in fabricating the next generation of advanced healthcare materials, with many prospects for immediate clinical translation," said Dr Chrzanowski.
"It will also open the possibility to take this collaboration to the next level and allow more intensive research and the extension of our collaborative network," he said.
"We intend to conceive collaboration with experts from Kyoto University, Tokyo University, Toyota and James Cook University to design novel multifunctional surfaces."
Dr Chrzanowski begins his Fellowship in November.
Contact: Chris Beaumont
Phone: 02 9351 2311