More recently the key research programmes have been:
Breast tissue reconstruction:
The research at the RAFT Institute devised a novel breast implant built from natural proteins, which will change the face of breast reconstruction post mastectomy.
Over 50,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Fewer than half the women in the UK who have a mastectomy choose to have breast reconstruction. Current reconstructive options are far from ideal.
As the breast tissue grows, the implant will be absorbed, leaving behind a natural breast, made with the patient’s own body tissue. This will lead to a natural feel outcome, with a quicker, less painful recovery time, and a far more cost-effective procedure.
One of the most common surgical procedures are those involving bone accounting for approximately 44% of the total. Fractures, bone diseases (e.g., osteoporosis), spinal fusion or hip or knee replacements often need bone grafting to
stop bone loss and promote healing. In addition, there is significant scope for dental use.
The RAFT research developed a biomaterial implant for bone regeneration to act as a filler where there is a loss of bone and encourage the body to make bone naturally.
This novel material promotes new bone formation and is biodegradable as new bone forms.
The use of such a biomaterial would eliminate the need for a second surgery to harvest autografts, significantly reducing costs and surgery times.
Wound healing – Keloids:
A keloid scar is a raised, painful growth on the skin, which often occurs after a minor scratch or cut. Keloids are a form of tumour and although not cancerous, can have a serious effect on a person’s quality of life.
RAFT research has developed a biomaterial-based treatment that prevents keloid recurrence after surgical removal. This product will be highly beneficial to patients and save medical resources. It will not require added hospital time so the potential cost savings in personnel time and aftercare would be significant.
In the UK approximately 60,000 operations to repair skull and jaw bones are carried out each year. Traditionally, metal implants bone grafts and artificial prosthetics are used but have a risk of rejection and other issues requiring multiple operations. 3D printing offers exciting prospects to create custom-fit implants; however, the inks used in 3D printing are far from ideal.
In conjunction with University College London, RAFT developed a 3D printable ink, supplemented with calcium phosphate for 3D printing of custom-fit implants for facial reconstruction surgery. This novel ink will be able to encourage the body to grow bone naturally as the implant gradually gets absorbed by the body, providing significant benefits to patients and saving the need for multiple operations as a patient grows older.
Bionic limb development
Upper limb loss is functionally more disabling than lower limb amputation because of the
vast number of fine motor skills undertaken by the hand and arm. Limb-loss is extremely traumatic for patients and their families.
In conjunction with UCL, RAFT developed a multiplexed implantable device for controlling a prosthetic limb, the goal of which is make upper arm prosthetics completely intuitive. We have also demonstrated the feasibility of wirelessly transferring both data and power between the implant and the external control device.