BIOMATERIALS AND INNOVATION

Biomaterials is an exciting field of health research that is truly transforming medicine and the way patients are treated for a huge variety of ailments and diseases. They can be made of synthetic or natural materials, and are used in medical implants, healing and regeneration of human tissues, cancer imaging and therapy, biosensors, drug-delivery systems, dentistry, and more!

Today, Dalhousie University has the opportunity to make even greater strides in this groundbreaking field of health research. Your gift to this year’s DMRF Molly Appeal will propel this research forward with the creation of a brand-new, state-of-the-art research lab. The Biomaterials Innovation Centre will mobilize Dalhousie’s successes to date, and turn them into life-changing health treatments for the Maritimes and beyond.

The experts you’ll read about below are already leading the world in biomaterials research and applications. With your help, the creation of the Biomaterials Innovation Centre will plant this team, and our region, firmly on the world-stage.

HELP US CHANGE AND SAVE LIVES WITH BIOMATERIALS

When it comes to biomaterials technology, the possibilities in health care are endless. Researchers at Dalhousie University are leading the charge in this innovative area of health research—but they need your support to help take their life-saving work even further. Biomaterials is going to absolutely transform medicine and the way we treat common ailments and diseases. Glass-based biomaterials are particularly promising, with solutions that can treat anything from teeth sensitivity to liver cancer.

Your donation to this year’s DMRF Molly Appeal will spur this research forward, and help people around the world suffering from chronic pain, bone loss, or life-threatening illnesses like cancer. You’ll fund biomaterials innovations that can block pain receptors for osteoarthritis, destroy cancer cells without radiation or chemotherapy, fight infection after surgery, and promote bone regeneration and growth. By giving to the Molly Appeal today, you’ll ensure biomaterials researchers have the resources, funding, and equipment they need to drive this research forward, and treat more patients with life-changing biomaterials technology.

The possibilities are infinite. You can be a part of it with your donation to this year’s DMRF Molly Appeal.  

 

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Patient Perspective: Biomaterials Research Aids in Treatment of Liver Cancer 

Soon after Bill Revels noticed persistent pain in his stomach, a hospital visit confirmed one of the most frightening causes: cancer of the liver. The large lesion in Bill’s liver, discovered by CT scan, meant that he would need urgent treatment. Unfortunately, however, the vast size of the tumour meant that Bill was not a viable candidate for surgery.

Luckily, Bill’s physician at the Halifax Infirmary, Dr. Robert Abraham, had another tool up his sleeve: a biomaterials-based procedure called Y-90 Radioembolization.

“My daughter and I were thoroughly impressed with this procedure, and we were so happy with the results,” says Bill. “I was able to walk right out of the hospital the same day, and the only side effect I experienced afterward was tiredness. That was in 2019, and today, I am lucky to be doing very well.”

As a minimally-invasive procedure, Y-90 Radioembolization involves using tiny glass beads to block blood supply to tumours in the liver, and to deliver radiation within them. Unlike traditional radiation or chemotherapy, this procedure spares the body’s healthy tissues, by targeting radiation directly at the tumour site.

“Y-90 Radioembolization can be done with just a tiny nick in the skin, avoiding broad radiation or even major liver surgery,” says Dr. Abraham. “It’s thanks to biomaterials research that this procedure exists, and it will be thanks to biomaterials research that we can improve it even further in the future. I am very excited that the Molly Appeal is spearheading fundraising for a new Biomaterials lab here at Dalhousie where we can expand our ground-breaking biomaterials research.”

Where the glass beads used in Y-90 Radioembolization currently aren’t visible on imaging scans until after the procedure, Dr. Abraham’s biomaterials research team in Halifax have developed a new glass product, which would allow physicians to monitor the procedure and confirm that the treatment is successful, in real time. Visible on X-ray and CT scan during the procedure itself, Dr. Abraham’s novel glass product will be taken to clinical trials this year.

“A few years ago, I didn’t know what biomaterials science was or what it could do, but this procedure saved my life, and I am so grateful,” says Bill. “Running my own limousine company, I’ve always enjoyed being busy, and today, at 78 years young, I still have lots of stamina. I feel lucky to continue to work, golf and spend time with my daughter, on the other side of liver cancer.”

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MEET THE RESEARCHER: Dr. Mark Filiaggi

For over 20 years, Dr. Filiaggi’s research program has focused primarily on glass-based biomaterials and medical device development. He and his team have worked on ways to modify the surfaces of implant materials so that they enhance clotting, are more resistant to infection, and better integrate with bone.

"Health care innovations continue to be bolstered by the development of novel medical devices and diagnostic tools – development that itself is driven by the discovery of new materials and/or the re-deployment of existing materials for new applications. Targeting disease prevention, early disease detection and better management of existing chronic diseases, these resulting innovations are crucial to addressing an overburdened health care system and achieving improved overall health outcomes."


 

MEET THE RESEARCHER: Dr. Robert (Bob) Abraham

Dr. Robert (Bob) Abraham is a practicing clinician and interventional radiologist. His primary expertise is in endovascular treatment of liver cancer and vascular disease. He established the 90Y Radioembolization program at the QEII Hospital, a minimally invasive cancer therapy that treats the tumor with radioactive beads through a small catheter.

"Biomaterials innovation will make a significant difference in 90Y therapy. Currently, we cannot monitor and adjust the treatment throughout the procedure. We can see where the radioactivity deposits using PET/CT scans, but not until after the treatment. Our team has been able to innovate and develop new biomaterials for Y-90 therapy that are visible on Xray. We believe this will allow for real time targeting of tumor and confirmation of complete tumor treatment. Patients will not have to wait months to know what that next step is in their cancer journey. This is just one example of what we will be able to achieve with a new Biomaterials Lab funded by The Molly Appeal Campaign!"


MEET THE RESEARCHER: Dr. Daniel Boyd

A globally recognized inventor, Dr. Boyd’s area of research focuses on glass biomaterials that can be used to promote bone regeneration and growth, target cancerous tumours, and optimize oral health.

"Imagine your loved one has been diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer or primary liver cancer. Our biomaterials team are developing solutions that will selectively treat some cancers from inside the tumour, rather than receiving traditional treatments like radiotherapy that might damage some of their organs, or chemotherapy that makes them very unwell. Instead, these patients could have outpatient procedures where pain and illness is reduced by using glass technologies. The potential for these technologies is enormous, branching out beyond oncology and through to oral health and pain management from osteoarthritis."


DR. Tsanka Todorova, DMRF RESEARCH FELLOW IN OSTEOARTHRITIS

A theoretical chemist with international training, Dr. Todorova and her colleagues have been working in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Boyd over the past two years and have successfully developed a prototype of a breakthrough medical device for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Dr. Todorova and Dr. Boyd are currently in the process of launching a start-up company in Nova Scotia and working through regulatory compliance and patenting, with a view to commercializing this technology as quickly as possible.

“This type of work is entirely unique in the global context. With this advanced technology, we hope to improve the lives of people around the world who are suffering from medical conditions such as osteoarthritis.”


Brenna Kettlewell, DMRF CONRAD STUDENTSHIP RECIPIENT

Studying in Dr. Boyd’s lab, Brenna Kettlewell is developing a novel bioactive glass that can be used as a synthetic bone graft. This bone graft will promote rapid bone regeneration for use in treating a variety of conditions, including scoliosis, osteoporosis, and cancers of the bone.