Materials for health

Our research looks at how materials interact with the human body to improve quality of life. We are looking to nature and synthesising sustainable biomaterials, exploring new approaches to tissue engineering, designing materials to improve medical devices and implants and creating healthier foods.

Researcher looking through a microscope
On

Key research

Biomaterials 
Image take of scaffolds used in the human body to aid tissue regrowth

The mechanical, structural and chemical requirements of materials used in the human body are broad and complex. We are developing new materials for use in soft and hard tissue repair and have particular expertise in porous polymeric materials, biohybrid scaffolds and testing material/cell interactions to improve function.

Key academic staff

Prof. Frederik Claeyssens

Dr Nicola Green

Prof. Gwendolen Reilly

Prof. Ipsita Roy

Bioinspired, natural and sustainable materials 
Photo of a garden snail

Nature is the world’s greatest materials scientist and our research aims to further our understanding of how nature creates the materials it does (eg. Why is snail slime both sticky and slippery?) whilst harnessing the power of biology to produce new materials (eg. bacterial fermentation for protein synthesis). 

Key academic staff

Dr Chris Holland

Prof. Ispita Roy

Regenerative medicine 
Tissue Engineered Scaffold

We are interested in the repair, replacement and regeneration of tissue within the human body. Our research explores how we can use materials, tissues, stem cells and biochemical factors to improve human health. Projects include using adipose tissue and stem cells to treat scarring and using mechanobiology to stimulate bone repair and tissue formation.

Key academic staff

Dr Nicola Green

Dr Vanessa Hearnden

Prof. Gwendolen Reilly

Characterising and understanding materials for health 
Atomic Force Microscopy

The ability to “see” materials and biological compounds in new ways opens up new possibilities to develop and test new materials and therapeutics. We develop high resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM) capable of imaging the double helix of DNA on single molecules to understand the structure of new RNA therapies and explore DNA interactions. We also develop novel scanning electron microscopy methods to explore changes to the surface and bulk  properties of surgical meshes, natural materials  and novel biomaterials. We have expertise in the mechanical testing of biomaterials and difficult to handle biological tissues using techniques such as rheology, tensile testing, nanoindentation, nanomechanical mapping using AFM, and dynamic mechanical testing.

Key academic staff

Dr Chris Holland

Dr Alice Pyne

Prof. Cornelia Rodenburg

Alternatives to animal testing 
Experimental equipment for growing 'bone-on-a-chip'

We have developed a range of human tissue models to study disease pathology, novel treatment and therapeutic strategies and to reduce our reliance on animal testing. These include models of human skin to study wound healing, human tonsil to understand infection, bone-on-a-chip to test novel strategies for osteoporosis and models of cancer metastasis and invasion. 

Key academic staff

Dr Nicola Green

Dr Vanessa Hearnden

Prof. Gwendolen Reilly

Impact

REF2021-eyesight

Sheffield’s innovative research, integrating tissue culture techniques with ocular surgery, has led to a new treatment for blindness, caused by ocular burns, called Simple Limbal Epithelial Transplant (SLET).

Making saving eyesight simple

Research facilities and experimental capabilities 

We have an extensive range of expertise and experimental capabilities and are open to collaborating with others. Here are some examples of the techniques and facilities we have.

Expertise and experimental capabilities Key contact
3D cell culture models

Dr Vanessa Hearnden

3D printing

Prof. Frederik Claeyssens

Angiogenesis assays including CAM

Dr Vanessa Hearnden

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) Dr Alice Pyne
Bacterial fermentation Prof. Ispita Roy
Biohybrid scaffold production Dr Nicola Green
Complementary spectral imaging techniques

Prof. Cornelia Rodenburg

Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy Dr Nicola Green
Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) Dr Chris Holland
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) Dr Chris Holland
Emulsion templating

Prof. Frederik Claeyssens

Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) Dr Chris Holland
Hard tissue cell culture

Prof. Gwendolen Reilly

Histology

Dr Vanessa Hearnden

Light Microscopy Dr Chris Holland
Nanoindentation Dr Alice Pyne
Optical profilometry Dr Alice Pyne
Outreach in Bioengineering

Dr Michael Trikić

Polymer and nanoparticle synthesis

Prof. Frederik Claeyssens

Rheology Dr Chris Holland
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Secondary Electron Hyperspectral Imaging (SEHI) at room and low temperatures

Prof. Cornelia Rodenburg

Second harmonic imaging Dr Nicola Green
Single fibre (low force) mechanical testing Dr Chris Holland
Sustainable lab practices

Dr Michael Trikić

Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) Dr Chris Holland
Ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy (UV-Vis) Dr Chris Holland

Aligned research centres

Insigneo

Driving innovative research at the interface of healthcare, engineering and science to transform the future of healthcare technology.

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Henry Royce Institute

Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to help accelerate university and industry ideas through to an industry production scale in order to meet our global challenges.

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The Henry Royce Nanocharacterisation Laboratory 

A state-of-the-art facility which contains equipment able to probe the structure, composition, and mechanical properties of all materials at the nanoscale.

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Sorby Centre for Electron Microscopy

The Sorby Centre at the University of Sheffield is a leading facility, delivering world-class research through the application of advanced electron and ion beam microscopy. The Centre’s capabilities provides, academic and industry researchers insight into the structure and chemistry of materials at the micro and nanoscale.

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Near-Field Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy Centre

Beating the diffraction limit and probing the nanoscale with a wide range of optical techniques in the visible through to the mid-infrared. Near-Field Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy Centre is built around a scattering-scanning near-field optical microscope (s-SNOM).

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Our department is internationally recognised for both the quality of its research and educational provision. Study a research degree with us and you'll become part of a welcoming community, benefitting from the knowledge and experience of leading academics in their field of research.

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