Research Impact Report - Project 538

Nanoemulsions for oxygen delivery in bone repair

Principal Investigator  Kirsten O’Brien 

Stream PhD

Duration 36 Months

Cost £75,000

Lay summary

Many bone fractures fail to heal. It has been shown that some bone diseases that affect bone fractures, such as osteoporosis, non-union fractures and osteonecrosis, are linked to low oxygen (hypoxia). Current methods for treating this hypoxia are either invasive or cause can cause complications. As a result, new methods are needed. Tiny droplets – nanodroplets – containing perfluorocarbons are able dissolve large amounts of oxygen (approximately 50 times the amount of oxygen that can be dissolved in water). This project investigates whether these perfluorocarbon containing nanodroplets are able to help delayed healing or non-union fractures to repair by deliver oxygen to the fracture site.

Impact statement

Bone fractures are a common cause of hospital admission. Many complications surrounding bone fractures are not being solved by current clinical interventions or are too invasive. This problem is only set to increase as society shifts towards an ageing population. Hypoxia is associated with many common bone diseases and complications such as osteoporosis, osteonecrosis and non-union fractures. In preliminary work, we have found that oxygen, delivered in microbubbles, reduces osteoclast differentiation in vitro and significantly reduces the number of osteoclasts in vivo. In this project PFC ND emulsions will be used to deliver oxygen to bone to augment bone mass and to improve bone healing. This will expand orthopedic knowledge. The primary beneficiary of this project will ultimately be to patients. Poorly-healing bone fractures cause pain and immobility for many thousands of patients each year. Our proposed PhD project aims to develop the science to enable translation of ultrasound-responsive delivery.

Fundamental problem trying to address


Aims & Objectives

The overall aim of this project is to investigate whether oxygen-loaded perfluorocarbon nanodroplets are effective in aiding bone repair. The specific objective include:

  1. To optimise nanodroplet formulation and oxygen loading;
  2. To evaluate the effect of oxygen loaded nanodroplets on cells;
  3. To verify whether oxygen tension influences osteogenesis

Intellectual property

If the proposed research indicates a positive impact in orthopaedic applications, clinical translation could be rapid. The safety of the product has already been demonstrated and the manufacturing process developed. The TTO teams at all universities will work with inventors to identify IP, assist with patent protection, technology translation and commercialisation. At Southampton, there is a standing Patent/IP Evaluation Panel providing expertise and infrastructure around IP assessment, development and translational advice from TTOs. Research and Innovation Services at the University of Southampton will provide the team with professional support and advice to enable commercialisation of the platform technology. Importantly we have a highly active IP panel within the Faculty of Medicine that can provide advice on IP protection, development and translation. A TTO with the relevant industry/sector experience will also be available to assist with commercial guidance through utilisation of their network to commercial mentors and external bodies, such as the AHSN. Additionally, Southampton is home to four industry-experienced Royal Society funded Entrepreneurs in Residence with experience of product development and implementation. Milestone meetings with these experts are built into the project plan. This access to a network of expertise will de-risk this project and ensure that the technology is developed in a timely and effective manner towards successful translation.

Team members & other funders

 Supervisory team: Dr Nicholas Evans, Dr Dario Carugo, Dr Jonathan May, Dr Robin Rumney, Professor Eleanor Stride 





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