Current Research Projects
Wound infections are responsible for an estimated 37,000 deaths p.a. within the EU, costing €7 billion p.a. Infections can lead to permanent disability and decreased quality of life. The emergence of new bacterial strains resistant to all current antibiotics is a potential time-bomb. In response, the WHO have called for an urgent reduction in antibiotic use and innovation to improve infection control and combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The ability of bacteria to form biofilms which are dense, multilayers of cells protected by an extracellular polymeric substance, is fundamental to their success in infecting wounds and resisting disinfection. This project utilises plasma technology to deliver reactive oxygen and nitrogen species into the wound, with concomitant delivery of potent antimicrobial agents from tailored wound dressings. This combination of plasma and therapeutics work in synergy to eradicate biofilms and accelerate healing. Importantly, this approach allows on-demand, targeted delivery of antibiotics, thus helping to combat AMR.
Our plasma-activated dressing is compatible with a range of drug-delivery vehicles including vesicles, microparticles, nanoparticles and dendrimers. These can be loaded with a broad range of existing therapeutics, as well as more novel ones, such as oligonucleotides, antibodies and anti-microbial peptides, opening up opportunities to treat a much wider range of conditions. This approach facilitates targeted and precise delivery deep into the tissue.
Onychomycosis is a fungal infection caused by dermatophyte fungi deeply seated in the nail plate. It accounts for one-third of all fungal infections in the world and affects 10% of the world’s population, exacerbated by poor lifestyle, diabetes and obesity. Despite the prevalence of the disease, successful treatment options remain a challenge due to poor penetration of topical drugs into the nail bed, which often take months and years to work, and liver-damage associated with oral antifungal drugs. Gold-standard treatments demonstrate low success rates, increased antifungal resistance, prolonged treatments and frequent recurrences. Therefore, novel treatments for onychomycosis are urgently sought and given plasma’s anti-microbial properties, it presents a promising alternative. Studies have shown that, depending on the treatment parameters, direct plasma treatment can reduce the growth or completely eradicate dermatophytes. This project uses a bespoke plasma device to activate a specialised dressing pre-loaded with proven anti-fungal drugs, to improve drug-penetration deep into the nail bed and eradicate infection.
High grade serious ovarian cancer is the most common and aggressive type of ovarian cancer. Patients are often diagnosed at a late stage where metastasis makes treatment very challenging. The current standard treatments have debilitating side effects and sadly, 80-90% of patients diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer will develop resistance and succumb to the disease. This project explores a significant potential new therapy utilising plasma-activated media and materials to specifically treat ovarian cancer more effectively than standard carboplatin chemotherapy whilst preserving surrounding healthy cells and tissue.