NUI Galway Researchers Lead € 2.7m Project for Hernia Treatment

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Researchers at NUI Galway are to lead a European project to develop a new product for use in hernia operations. The Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB)-led consortium has been awarded an EU-FP7 grant worth € 2.7 million for a proposal entitled Targeting Hernia Operation Using Sustainable Resources and Green Nanotechnologies. The overall objective of the Green Nano Mesh research project is to develop a novel mesh for use in hernia operations.

Hernia operations are among the most common surgical procedures performed, with over 20 million taking place worldwide annually. In the US alone, the associated expenditure exceeds $48 billion every year. Despite the early success of non-degradable meshes, there is still no wholly satisfactory therapy for hernia repair. In fact, non-degradable meshes are characterised by poor healing response, unfavourable foreign body reaction and in vivo erosion which lead to a failure rate of greater that 10 per cent and a 42 per cent incidence of recurring hernias. Recurring hernias cause further distress to patients, compromising their quality of life, all the while putting an additional financial strain on healthcare systems. The Green Nano Mesh project aims to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to currently-used meshes which will improve clinical outcomes for the patient.

The consortium is led by Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis and Professor Abhay Pandit of NFB at NUI Galway, and includes academic groups from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; the Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain; Aarhus University, Denmark; and Centexbel, the Belgian textile research centre. There are also six industrial partners involved in the collaboration including: Collplant, Israel; Luxilon Industries, Belgium; Proxy Biomedical Ltd., Ireland; Vornia, Ireland; Biomatech, France; and European Research Services GmbH, Germany.

The driving hypothesis of Green Nano Mesh is that using sustainable raw materials and green nano-processes to fabricate a mesh prototype for hernia repair will eliminate hazardous chemicals from the manufacturing process and result in a clinically relevant, nano-fibrous prototype which is suitable for hernia repair. By processing naturally-occurring materials in eco-friendly ways, the resultant mesh will have superior biological properties helping to reduce incidences of foreign body reaction and toxicity, leading to improved hernia repair. The use of such materials and processes in the medical sector is timely, given that in excess of 206Kt of medical plastics are produced annually in Europe alone.

Speaking about the award, Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of NFB, said: “This is our second co-ordinator grant that we have secured in the last six months. We are delighted to get European recognition and support for the research that NFB conducts in nanotechnology. This programme provides fantastic opportunities to access the leading research and industrial researchers in biomaterials across the EU.”

The award will fund staff, equipment, consumables and the training and development of researchers in the biomaterials and tissue engineering fields over a four-year period. The programme design encourages increased dialogue between academics, industry and clinicians, fostering the transfer of key scientific and experimental knowledge between the institutions and sectors involved.

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis at the NFB, who is co-ordinating the project, said: “This EU funding demonstrates the competitiveness of Irish research. Furthermore, due to the constructive interaction between academics, industry representatives and clinicians, the technologies under investigation will be translated to bed-side therapies.”

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