UVic researcher develops a simple method to create smart microfibres for health applications

Mohsen Akbari, wearing a lab coat, sits at a lab bench near a large microscope

Mohsen Akbari in his biomedical lab in UVic’s Engineering Lab Wing.

2020 February – A UVic engineering researcher – in collaboration with researchers from the University of Toronto, University of Montreal and Technical University of Denmark – has developed a new method of creating metres of “smart” fibres that can be used in high-tech drug delivery, biosensing and tissue engineering applications.

Mohsen Akbari, who leads the Laboratory for Innovation in Microengineering (LiME) at UVic, recently described the new approach in a paper that has been accepted for publication in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Akbari’s new method uses off-the-shelf, low-cost 3D printers to create spinnerets made from plastics that enable fabricating metre-long microfibres from natural materials. Compared to previous approaches, which are more complicated and require hours and special facilities to create the spinneret, the new strategy completes the fabrication process in a few minutes, offering a cost-effective and straightforward bio-fabrication method.

Fibres, in this context, are flexible, one-dimensional materials that can be formed into more complex structures using traditional textile technologies and 3D bioprinting.For example, the LiME team weaves the smart microfibres – which can detect the earliest sign of infection and deliver drug therapies – into a gauze-like fabric to treat burns and other types of wounds.

“This approach enables the fabrication of metres of fibers with biophyiscal features that were not possible using traditional fiber fabrication methods,” said Akbari.

“We’re now looking for clinical and industrial partners to utilize this technology for applications in high-throughput drug screening and next-generation drug delivery systems,” he added. High-throughput drug screening uses automation to quickly test the biological or biochemical activity of a largenumber of molecules.

The new method of creating these fibers will further Akbari’s research activities in the area of fiber-based tissue engineering. Akbari’s team at LiME creates microfibres that mimic skeletal muscle, the spinal cord and peripheral nerves so emerging drug therapies can be tested with much more accurate results. Learn more about these research activities.

Last year, Akbari won the Michael Smith Foundation’s Innovation to Commercialization Award to further his work on GelDerm, an advanced dressing embedded with tiny sensors that change colour when wounds become infected. GelDerm’s ability to monitor pH levels, detect bacterial growth, and localize antibiotic treatment means potentially life-threatening infections are identified and treated quickly. Akbari’s work is also supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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