Skip to main content

Artificial Tissue Actuators by the 3D Printing of Responsive Hydrogels

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DLCHHB (Artificial Tissue Actuators by the 3D Printing of Responsive Hydrogels)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-12-31

The controlled behaviour of chemical systems in response to external stimuli is ubiquitous in Nature and perceived as a key requirement for the bottom-up development of advanced functional materials. Progress in this exciting area has been hindered by a lack of scalable technologies for the fabrication of materials that will respond at the molecular level to produce useful mechanical motion at the macroscale. Such technologies could find application in a variety of healthcare intensive applications, such as in regenerative medicine, drug-delivery or as responsive artificial tissue scaffolds. The overall aim of this project was to prepare artificial tissue-like materials that can achieve stimulus-responsive chemo-mechanical actuation. Technology developed by Prof. Bayley, University of Oxford, has enabled the 3D printing of lipid-stabilised droplet networks. Exploiting this technology in collaboration with Prof. Hawker at the Materials Research Laboratory, University of California, Santa Barbara, a range of responsive droplet networks were prepared that exhibited a reversible shape or volume change. The project has achieved most of its objectives and milestones for the period, with relatively minor deviations. Overall, Dr Lunn has become significantly more skilled throughout the duration of the fellowship, gaining experience in interdisciplinary research, knowledge transfer and scientific communication.
For the outgoing phase of the project, Dr Lunn was based at the Materials Research Laboratory, University of California, Santa Barbara for 18 months, under the primary supervision of Prof. Craig J. Hawker with frequent input from Prof. Hagan Bayley. As outlined in the technical report, milestones and deliverables for work packages 1 and 2 were accomplished on schedule. Briefly, a general strategy for the divergent and scalable synthesis of functional lipids has been developed, and the preparation and optimisation of lipid stabilised responsive droplets achieved. For the return phase of the project, Dr Lunn was based at the Chemistry Research Laboratory, University of Oxford, under the primary supervision of Prof. Hagan Bayley, with frequent input from Prof. Craig J. Hawker. Although the scope of the research is still being investigated, the main goals of work packages 3 and 4 were completed during this return phase of the project. Importantly, the 3D printing of droplet networks that can perform chemo-mechanical actuation in response to external stimuli was achieved. Some of these results represent proprietary information and are not expanded upon in this summary. The other results from this project have been disseminated in a number of ways, including at conferences, through networking events, through ongoing collaborations and as a published manuscript. Several additional manuscripts, specifically from the results obtained from work packages 2, 3 and 4, will be submitted as soon as possible. As a result of this project, an ongoing collaboration has been established between Prof. Hawker, University of California, Santa Barbara and Prof. Bayley, University of Oxford. Throughout the fellowship, the experienced researcher, Dr Lunn, learned by ‘training through research’, interactions with both supervisors, collaborations with scientists at both institutions, and ongoing communication with the wider chemical community.
This project enabled the development of a novel strategy for the generation of lipid-stabilized droplets that undergo a reversible shape or volume change in response to external stimuli. Significantly, this allowed the 3D printing technology previously developed by Prof. Bayley to be adapted for the printing of droplet networks that can perform chemo-mechanical actuation. This project is expected to have significant future impact, encompassing two key enabling areas of the Horizon 2020 investment programme, ‘Advanced Materials’ and ‘Biotechnology’. Additionally, the technologies targeted in this project directly addresses one of the key research and innovation targets of Horizon 2020, ‘better health for all’. As outlined by the European Commission's public health policy, 'ageing is one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century'. Additionally, the development of such technologies will initiate and reinforce collaborations between synthetic chemists, chemical biologists, biophysicists and healthcare practitioners. The dissemination of results as publications, at conferences and through networking events has enabled the impact of this project to be realised by both scientists and the general public. Specific results from this project are expected to form the basis of several commercial opportunities that will be explored by OxSyBio Ltd, an Oxford-based company where Dr Lunn has accepted a research position as Head of Non-Living Systems. Overall, the fellowship has had a significant impact on the personal and professional development of the experienced researcher, Dr Lunn. To complete the required research objectives, Dr Lunn had to learn new skills bridging synthetic chemistry, materials science and biotechnology. The funding provided by the fellowship enabled Dr Lunn to travel for conferences, networking events and research collaborations, expanding his professional network and broadening his scientific outlook.