Case Study: Professor Gordon Blunn
Gordon heads the Centre for Bio-Medical Engineering. In addition to being Professor in the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science (IOMS) where he has secured in excess of 3.6million in funding over the last 5 years, he is Chief Scientific Officer at Stanmore Implants Worldwide Ltd. He has long experience in orthopaedic medical devices, materials and musculo-skeletal tissues.
Gordon has led many successful research projects funded by government bodies and orthopaedic companies and while he is an academic, he has translated a number of research ideas into clinical practise and the Centre has been involved in a number of successful spin out companies.
Stanmore Implants Worldwide embodies a singular relationship between the commercial world, health care services and academia through which novel implants and surgical approaches are fostered and as a result has become one of the world’s leading specialist companies in the design and fabrication of custom-made implants.
Figure: Radiographs of a male patient aged 13 years at implantation showing a proximal tibial non-invasive prosthesis, Left: early after implantation, and Right: at a follow-up of 12 months showing 35 mm lengthening (extension arrowed)
The IOMS, which is part of the new UCL Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), specialises in devices used for reconstruction and regeneration of the musculoskeletal system. Research ranges from the use of the patients’ own stem cells to help revive bone used in hip surgery to the attachment of prosthesis to soft tissues.
At IOMS we have pioneered the use of implants to treat bone cancer patients. Bone cancers can occur in young growing patients and removal of the diseased bone in these individuals’ impairs growth. Over the years we have developed implants that are able to grow as these patients grow but until recently this required a series of operations to extend the implant as the patient grew. One of the recent developments has been the development and use of a non-invasive growing implant (see figure) that contains an internal magnet, which rotates and drives a gearbox extending the implant. The magnet is induced to rotate by a rotating magnetic field which is generated around the limb. This means that patients’ artificial bone can grow without an operation, which has a number of obvious significant advantages.
Other projects that Gordon is involved in along with other members of IOMS and the new IBME is the generation of new bone substitute materials which include the use of stem cells and the development and assessment of joint replacements. The IBME encourages and enhances much greater collaboration with other groups in UCL and the cross-faculty nature of this Institute means that newer and larger funding streams are available to support research.