Engineering: Fully Funded M2A EngD Scholarship: Coated Transdermal Sensors for Diagnostic Applications
Start date: October 2022
Expected interview date: April 2022
Academic supervisors: Dr S Sharma and Professor K Lewis
Industrial supervisor: Professor C Hopkins, TriTech Institute, Hywel Dda University Health Board
Sponsoring company: TriTech Institute
People develop respiratory failure for a variety of reasons including chronic severe lung disease, chest wall or spinal problems, neuromuscular disease, severe obesity, sedating medications or often a combination of the above.
The most important way to diagnose and monitor respiratory failure is measuring blood oxygen (low) and blood carbon dioxide (high). We can measure oxygen by non-invasive sensors that measure refracted infra-red light on finger-tip probes. However, this method cannot reliably measure blood levels of carbon dioxide or levels of acidity (pH). Venous blood samples are also not accurate to measure carbon dioxide. Therefore, clinicians have to sample arterial (or sometimes capillary) blood which entails painful, sometimes technically difficult (missing the target), time-consuming, and occasionally dangerous needle insertion into arteries (including bleeding, nerve damage). There is also a short delay whilst blood samples are taken to measuring machines and technical inaccuracies can occur during sampling and transport with e.g., trapped oxygen bubbles or oxygen consumption by red cells.
The ability to safely measure a surrogate of arterial carbon dioxide and pH would have immediate and profound clinical benefits. To date no-one has developed transcutaneous measurements that are accurate or reliable enough to inform clinical care. The skin interstitial fluid (ISF) is a treasure trove of biomarkers and acts as a window to the body. It can be tapped in a minimally invasive manner using microneedle arrays. These microneedle arrays can be modified with metallic and functional coatings to multiplexed electrochemical sensing devices.
This project will aim to:
- Review literature and current practice within the continuous monitoring sensors to understand the current state of knowledge on functional metal coatings, polymeric coatings for bioreceptors and transdermal sensors.
- Improve the theoretical understanding of the demands on microneedle array patches for continuous monitoring, sampling and diagnostic applications.
- Complete lab trial work involving in vitro optimisation in tissue phantoms followed by pilot studies in clinical settings.
This multidisciplinary EngD studentship will be jointly supervised between Dr Sanjiv Sharma, Professor Keir Lewis and Professor Chris Hopkins. As part of this studentship, the candidate will be supported to gain engineering skills on device fabrication and translational research experience through collaborative working in clinical settings. The successful candidate will be closely working with the local NHS and have unprecedented access to the expertise and facilities of the newly established TriTech Institute in Llanelli.