Hip, hip, hooray for clever Otago bioengineering scientists

University of Otago bioengineer Dr Khoon Lim in his laboratory. Photo: Supplied
University of Otago bioengineer Dr Khoon Lim in his laboratory. Photo: Supplied
Plans to produce next-generation hip replacements by 3D-bioprinting bone were among many University of Otago research projects supported by more than $3.5 million in career development awards.

''It seems futuristic, but it's also realistic,'' Dr Khoon Lim, an Otago University bioengineer, said of the new approach.

He is developing a Lego-like system to 3D-bioprint bone; a solution that could one day replace the billions of dollars worth of ceramic and titanium implants required by New Zealand patients each year, including for hip replacements.

Dianne Sika-Paotonu
Dianne Sika-Paotonu
He also aims to use stem cells and growth factors to grow bone and supporting blood vessels, initially using a biodegradable plastic matrix.

Bone was a ''hugely complex tissue'' to create, but he was ''very optimistic - 90-95% optimistic'' - that the new approach would eventually provide better and cheaper treatment for patients with bone defects and injuries than the current methods, which include using ceramic implants.

Dr Lim, of Otago's Christchurch campus, is one of three Otago University researchers to receive a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship, amounting to $487,549, through the latest Health Research Council (HRC) career redevelopment awards.

The HRC has awarded more than $10million throughout the country, and 26 Otago health researchers and students have received more than $3.5 million.

Rosie Brown
Rosie Brown
Otago anatomy department research fellow Dr Rosie Brown also gained a Sir Charles Hercus Fellowship, amounting to $500,000.

Dr Brown said the fellowship would allow her to study the role the hormone prolactin played in the reward circuitry of the brain and its impact on how a mother cared for her infant after birth.

She hoped that more effective diagnostic tools and strategies to treat people with postpartum mood disorders could eventually be developed by better understanding how the brain regulated mood and behaviour during and shortly after pregnancy.

New Zealand-born biomedical scientist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, of Otago's Wellington campus, was awarded the Sir Thomas Davis Te Patu Kite Rangi Ariki Fellowship ($195,162) to research the development of a blood test for cancer.

Dr Sika-Paotonu, of Tongan heritage, said the research could support and improve diagnosis and health outcomes for cancer patients in New Zealand and the Pacific.

Bachelor of health science student Zaine Akuhata-Huntington has received a $5000 Maori Health Research Summer Studentship to explore potential reasons rangatahi Maori (Maori young people) have higher suicide rates than non-Maori.

Recent Ministry of Justice figures showed the suicide rate for Maori was 23.72 people per 100,000, much higher than the non-Maori rate (13.94 per 100,000), and his aim was to reduce Maori suicide numbers and associated ''inequities'', he said.

Other Otago HRC funding: Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship, Senior Research Fellow Dr Katie Douglas, Christchurch, $427,424; Clinical Research Training Fellowship, Dr Benjamin McConchie, Wellington, $313,491; Dr Mohammed Moharram, $319,613; Dr Janet Rhodes, $292,996; Natalie Talamaivao, Wellington, Foxley Fellowship, $131,284; Maori Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr Megan Leask, $284,599; Maori Health Research PhD Scholarship, Ngahuia Mita, $141,364; Maori Health Research Masters Scholarship, Abigail Johnson, $30,253; Maori Health Research Summer Studentship, all $5000, Esther Pinfold, Ellie Baxter, Manurereau Te Maunga-A-Rongo Allen, Maia Tapsell, Kathryn Hippolite; Pacific Clinical Research Training Fellowship, Dr Malama Tafunai, $320,000; Pacific Health Research Masters Scholarship, Amy Henry, $31,244; Tumanu Futi, $32,535; Pacific Health Research Summer Studentship, all $5000: Bridie Laing, Jordan Taylor, Fuakava Tanginoa, Toni Anitelea, Adam Faatoese, Oprah Pupi.

Add a Comment



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter