Collaboration with the University of Westminster

Professor Ipsita Roy and her team at the University of Westminster are producing natural polymers called Polyhydroxyalkanoates, or PHAs, from bacteria to be used inside living hearts.  

The natural process these bacteria have that produces polymers is being modified to produce a range of types of polymers for medical use.

As part of the BHF Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Centre the group are exploring the use of polymers in the development of cardiac patches to support stem cell growth and differentiation in to cardiac muscle. These polymers are biodegradable in nature. They degrade in a controlled manner via surface erosion while maintaining their bulk properties. Their degradation properties are less acidic in nature which makes them highly non-toxic.  Their properties are tailorable and are therefore suited for a range of biomedical applications.


Process

Streaking the plates: The sterile nutrient agar plates is streaked with bacteria using an inoculation loop. This plate will be kept in an incubator.

Researcher uses bunsen burner in lab

 

Preparation of seed culture: A single colony from the streaked nutrient agar plate is chosen and used to inoculate the conical flask containing liquid media. 

Agar plates streaked with bacteria colony

 

Innoculation of up the 10 L Applikon fermenters: The conical flask containing the bacterial inoculum (seed culture) is used to inoculate the liquid media placed in the fermenter for the production of the polymer. 

Two researchers use fermenter

 

Extraction using soxhlet apparatus: The polymer is extracted from the biomass via continuous solvent extraction using the soxhlet apparatus. 

Extraction using soxhlet apparatus

 

Characterisation of the polymer: The polymer is tested to check that it has suitable properties to be used in the heart, this includes tensile testing to measure it's strength.

Tensile testing of polymerTensile testing of polymer

Thanks to Dr Pooja Basnett, Dr Rinat Nigmatullin, Ms Barbara Lukasiewicz and Professor Ipsita Roy for showing us around their lab and demonstrating their research steps at the University of Westminster.