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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S001468/1
Title: Novel bioengineering for auto-integration of advanced cell delivery substrates
Principal Investigator: Haneef, Dr A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Royal Liverpool University Hospitals NHS The Electrospinning Company
Department: Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship - NHFP
Starts: 01 June 2018 Ends: 31 May 2021 Value (£): 523,493
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Tissue engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 May 2018 EPSRC UKRI CL Innovation Fellowship Interview Panel 9 - 10 and 11 May 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
According to the World Health Organisation age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the third most prevalent cause of blindness worldwide, and the leading cause of blindness in industrialised countries. There are two types, the neovascular - which contributes to 10% of cases - and atrophic - which contributes to 90% of cases. In AMD, a section of the retina called the Bruch's membrane thickens with age and can interfere with the waste/nutrient exchange between the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells - the layer upon which photoreceptor cells attach and survive - and the choroid - the intricate network of vessels responsible for blood supply. This interference can cause the retinal pigment epithelial cells to die, which in turn can lead to photoreceptor cell death, eventually causing irreversible central vision loss. The sufferer loses their independence as this prevents them from carrying out everyday tasks such as reading and driving. The main risk factor for AMD is age and it, predominantly, affects people over the age of 50. It has already been reported by clinicians that cases of AMD have doubled between the years of 2000-2010, and with the population living longer the prevalence of this disease is anticipated to rise to more than double by the year 2030. Considering there is no current treatment for atrophic AMD and with its prevalence on the rise, this important issue needs to be addressed now.

A number of studies report the use of substrates to deliver healthy RPE cells under the photoreceptor cells before they begin to die. They discuss placing the substrate on top of the diseased Bruch's membrane to deliver a monolayer of RPE cells. I believe that simply placing a novel substrate on top of the diseased membrane could exacerbate the issue. The problem in AMD is the thickened Bruch's membrane, so adding a further layer could further increase the nutrient/waste exchange path leading to damage to the transplanted cells. I hypothesise that a cell transplant substrate can be designed that will unblock the diseased Bruch's membrane while providing support for the healthy RPE monolayer thus leading to improved nutrient/waste exchange between the photoreceptors and the choroidal blood vessels.

This project will develop a novel bioengineered persistent substrate with a bioactive layer that will deliver active molecules at a controlled rate. It will deliver the required monolayer of RPE cells in order to ensure photoreceptor cell survival while simultaneously removing and replacing the diseased native Bruch's membrane. These prerequisites address the necessity of having a permanent membrane upon which the retinal pigment epithelial cells can attach and survive, the removal of the diseased tissue, and the integration of the permanent substrate to replace the diseased Bruch's membrane in order to ensure that the optimal exchange pathway thickness is maintained.

I believe this novel approach will contribute to improving quality of life by reducing the number of people who lose their independence and require assistance/intervention due to AMD. The project aligns to the key Life Sciences Industrial Strategy challenge of developing advanced therapeutics under the theme of healthy ageing in the Health Advanced Research Programme and contributes to the EPSRC Healthy Nation delivery plan ambitions.
Key Findings
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.liv.ac.uk