Below you will find examples of our expertise in medical engineering and current research topics using computational fluid dynamics, 3D bioprinting and more:
As human life expectancy increases, the number of patients at risk of suffering organ or tissue failure will also grow rapidly. This poses challenges to national healthcare systems where clinicians are already struggling with the limited efficiency of clinical therapies and the scarcity of available donors for transplant.
Our researchers work at the interface between physical and biological sciences, developing a new generation of 3D artificial models with physiological relevance for the study of complex cellular mechanisms underpinning both regeneration and disease processes in human tissues/organs.
We work in close collaboration with clinicians and biotechnology SMEs with the intention of accelerating the discovery, manufacture and translation of biomaterials through a platform of advanced 3D bioprinting systems.
The group has strong collaborations with clinicians and several research groups in the UK (Leeds, Portsmouth, and the Cancer Research UK), Europe (Portugal, France, Turkey), Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and China. Research activities in biomanufacturing – funded by EPSRC, MRC, EU, British Council, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and industry partners – focus on:
- Development of novel additive manufacturing and hybrid systems to produce complex multi-material, functionally graded and hierarchical structures
- Combination of topology optimisation and additive manufacturing to design and produce novel medical implants
- Novel multi-functional, electroactive and piezoelectric scaffolds for tissue engineering
- Wound dressings with anti-viral and anti-microbial properties
- Fabrication of 3D biological/pathological/pharmacological models and drug screening models
- 3D cell printing
3D reconstruction of confocal microscopy images of bioprinted 3D hydrogel constructs after 14 days of culture, showing spread cells surrounded by a fibronectin-rich mesh network [nuclei (blue), F-actin (green), fibronectin (red)]
Biomechanics and biorobotics
Our researchers study the biomechanics and neural control of human and animal movements using mathematical, robotic and physiological approaches.
We explore the fundamental working principles of the human musculoskeletal system and the development of biologically inspired human-centred robotics and healthcare devices based on learned biological principles. This includes study into the biomechanics and motor control of human motions using an integrated experimental, computational and biorobotic approach. Our long term aim is to gain comprehensive understanding of the functions of musculoskeletal systems and the interactions between the musculoskeletal and neuromotor systems.
This also involves a range of research on the development of smart biomimetic lower-limb prosthetics, bio-inspired robotic/prosthetic hands with human-like performance, muscle-like soft actuators and skin-like soft sensors for prosthetic and exoskeleton systems. We are also developing biomimetic 4D printing techniques for healthcare devices.
Contact: Lei Ren
Inspired by nature: (images, top) robotic hand, biomimetic bipedal robot, lower-limb prosthetic; (video, above) inchworm soft robot
Clinical biomechanics and medical device design
Society is facing medical challenges such as diabetes, ageing population, stroke and musculoskeletal injury/diseases.
The movement and operation of the human body is highly complex. So understanding the biomechanics of both whole-body motion and biological mechanisms is key to understanding clinical conditions, improving human performance or even evaluating new medical treatments.
At Manchester, we aim to work collaboratively with clinicians, patients, industry and academics to deliver user-centred solutions to specific problems, apply engineering analysis and develop clinical understanding and/or medical devices. This is achieved through engineering design, experimental measurement – using our gait laboratory – or custom-made devices and computational modelling.
Our research provides understanding of the biomechanics of muscle activation and force production (Teklemariam et al, 2016 & 2019), measurement of loading on ligaments (Roldan et al 2017), insight into the structure of tendons (Reeves & Cooper 2017), assessment of gait biomechanics in the elderly and clinical populations (Buckley et al, 2013; Reddy, 2016), ergonomics of workplace injury (Cooper, 2007) and much more.
Illustration of how computational modelling and gait-laboratory assists with the design of custom-made medical devices, for instance in mitigation of foot ulceration caused by diabetes
Key areas of expertise are:
- User centred design
- Experimental biomechanics (gait analysis, electromyography, etc)
- Custom clinical measurement devices
- Biomechanical modelling (whole body dynamics, tissue mechanics, finite element analysis)
- Medical device design
For further details contact Dr Glen Cooper [WEBLINK] and Dr Andrew Weightman [WEBLINK]
Contact: Glen Cooper
Diagrammatic analysis of the difference in muscle biomechanics between young and middle-aged subjects
Computational cardiovascular mechanics
We are developing multi-scale, multi-fidelity simulation techniques to model physical phenomena occurring across the range of space and timescales present in the human body. We combine computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and structural mechanics tools, specifically formulated to account for mechanical properties and conditions of the cardiovascular system.
Our work includes the development of a broad range of complimentary approaches:
- Fluid-structure interaction coupling approaches using both Immersed Boundary and Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian methods.
- Fluids solvers based on Finite Volume, Lattice Boltzmann Method and Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics.
- Structural methods based on Finite Element and Discrete Element representation of structural mechanics. We develop novel use modes of CFD based on mixed (high/low) fidelity, data-driven machine learning and virtual/augmented reality approaches.
Examples of our recent and ongoing work include the development of:
- A cloud-based CFD toolchain to assist in surgical planning for patients with congenital heart disease, in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, South Africa (OpenFOAM in the cloud)
- An embedded turbulence simulation framework to assess unsteady flow field downstream of bicuspid aortic valve (OpenFOAM coupled to Finite Element solver)
- A fast particle-based structural modelling framework capable of modelling statistical uncertainty in material properties (using Lattice Boltzman and SPH with V-model on GPU)
CFD animation of wall shear stress in the cardiovascular system
Robotics for rehabilitation
Rehabilitation robots aim to promote engagement with useful therapeutic exercises to promote motor learning and function of the neurologically impaired. Neurological impairments include stroke, which is the commonest form of severe physical adult disability, and cerebral palsy, the commonest form of severe childhood physical disability in the UK.
Rehabilitation robotics is a multi-disciplinary field that involves healthcare professionals such as medical doctors and physiotherapists, as well as mechanical, electrical, electronic and software engineers.
Our aim is to develop rehabilitation robotics systems that can transform people’s lives, enabling them to better engage with society, while reducing the economic costs associated with healthcare provision.
Animation of a home-based rehabilitation robot, showing variety of articulation
Find out about research opportunities in Healthcare Engineering and how to apply.
Meet the team
Find contacts for our academics and researchers in Healthcare Engineering.