Dr Susan Sandeman has subsequently led a team of researchers engaging with companies, clinicians and academic partners to develop a range of adsorbent, nanostructured and smart polymer materials as prototypes to replace or repair organ function. For example, kidney dialysis provides life-saving support when the kidneys fail but does not act as a complete replacement therapy, partially because significant detoxification and metabolic activities no longer occur. Working with a multidisciplinary team, it has been possible to design a range of ‘sticky’ nanostructured adsorbents with components in the size range of 1-100 nm for more effective removal of biological toxins linked to poor dialysis performance. Such adsorbents may also reduce the disrupted gut barrier function associated with chronic liver disease through broadly acting adsorption of the gut derived inflammatory and bacterial products which drive heightened susceptibility to infection.
Another approach under development is the design of blood perfusion scaffolds tethered with bioactive molecules to specifically bind to microorganism derived toxins in the treatment of life-threatening infection. Such scaffold approaches may also be adapted to improve functional liver cell longevity as part of a liver replacement therapy.