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Dr Elaine Ferguson 

Dr Elaine Ferguson
Position:Lecturer in Polymer Therapeutics

Telephone:+44 (0)29 2074 3504

Research Theme

Tissue Engineering & Reparative Dentistry

Research Group

Microbial Effects on Tissue Function, and Tissue Repair and Remodelling

Repair and Regeneration in the Oral Mucosa

Research Interests

The aim of the Advanced Therapies Group is to design, develop and test novel polymer therapeutics based on biodegradable polymers for basic and applied research for use in regenerative medicine and tissue repair. We endeavour to gain a full understanding of the biological and physicochemical characteristics of these nano-sized systems to better understand how they distribute, interact and function in the body. 

Our research is developing new strategies to specifically target otherwise undeliverable proteins, peptides and drugs to sites of disease using safe, water-soluble natural polymers extracted from plants and animals. These so-called "nanomedicines" are capable of reducing the side effects of conventional drugs by 'shielding' them in a polymer 'coat', but once they reach the site of disease, they can be triggered to release the drug by the body's own proteins. Thus, patients require lower doses and less frequent dosing. 

Our ongoing research is investigating novel combinations of polymers and peptides for treatment of chronic inflammation and infection, and novel polymer-growth factor conjugates as adjunctives to stem cell therapy. Successful translation of this research has wide applications, not only in dentistry (e.g. maxillofacial trauma, periodontitis), but shows potential for use in an extensive range of diseases (e.g. diabetic foot ulcers, cystic fibrosis, spinal cord injury).

EPR Figure

Our nano-sized polymer therapeutics are typically designed to be administered intravenously. While the polymer-conjugated drugs will be unable to access healthy tissues due to their larger size, they will accumulate in areas of infection due to the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect, since diseased and inflamed tissues classically have very leaky blood vessels and poor drainage. Here, the drug will be protected from enzymatic degradation by the body’s digestive enzymes (proteases), but degradation of the polymer by enzymes found naturally in the diseased tissue will reinstate the biological activity of the drug.

In the News

Targeting antibiotic resistant bacteria 

Developing new strategies to target drugs to sites of disease