Engineering better medical treatment

Published on 23 July 2014

Wayne Ayre, a postdoctoral researcher (formally PhD student) at Cardiff School of Engineering has been awarded a prestigious prize for interdisciplinary engineering research that advances medical treatment.

The Worshipful Company of Engineers Mercia Award is given each year to a person under 30, for a postgraduate paper describing how engineering techniques are being used for the advancement of medical treatment.

Awards 2014 W AyreDr Ayre's paper described how he developed, as part of his PhD, a novel delivery system for PMMA bone cements (a cement that anchors hip and knee replacements to bone). This was achieved through an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Cardiff Schools of Engineering and Pharmacy (funded by the Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre of excellence at Cardiff).

The delivery system consists of nano-particles, capable of encapsulating a variety of therapeutics and drugs, which are well dispersed throughout the cement. As a result of this, double the amount of antibiotic can be delivered via the cement when compared to the techniques currently used.  The system also makes the cement tougher and therefore there is potential for this to reduce infections in cemented joint replacements and save the NHS an estimated £200-300 million per annum (as infected joint replacements can cost up to £70,000 per patient to treat).
Dr Ayre is now a postdoctoral researcher in Cardiff School of Engineering, and is developing the cement further to deliver multiple antibiotics which work in synergy, as well as looking at using this system to prevent infection in dental restorative materials and to deliver different therapeutics in the future, such as bone growth factors and anti-inflammatory markers to encourage bone healing and repair.

The Worshipful Company of Engineers is one of the City of London Livery Companies, with a membership that reflects a balance between the principal disciplines of the Engineering profession. The objects of the Company include the development and advancement of the science, art and practice of engineering for the benefit of the public. Through its Charitable Trust fund, the Company gives awards and prizes to encourage excellence amongst qualified engineers and those in training and education.

The Mercia Award in Medical Engineering is made annually to a student to provide a bursary towards the cost of a taught or research programme of postgraduate studies in Medical Engineering. The award was presented on Tuesday 15th July.