A cure for Parkinson’s disease may be a step closer thanks to a collaboration between a PhD research student from Loughborough University and engineers at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Laurissa Havins, aged 23, from Rowley Regis is a PhD student in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Regenerative Medicine in the School of Science at Loughborough University. Her research is specifically aimed at the development of new materials for the manufacture of cells to treat Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

The MTC’s senior business development manager Nigel Knapp with PhD student Laurissa Havins.

She is working on a novel process for volume production and isolation of specific neurons from stem cells. To be successful the research requires a device housing multiple materials for chemical modification, made out of a material resistant to the corrosive chemicals used in the process.

So she turned to experts at the MTC’s Manufacturing Support Services team who helped design and manufacture a system for her to use, using 3D printing in a high-stress polymer capable of withstanding the strong chemicals used in the process.

Laurissa is researching new ways to create, maintain and isolate functional neurons for clinical use that can replicate neurons affected by such diseases as Parkinson’s. By harvesting stem cells from patients, researchers can replicate them in the laboratory and manipulate cells which can be differentiated into the type of neurons lost during the onset of the disease.

Using novel, chemically-modified materials to mimic what is observed in a developing brain, Laurissa is hoping to advance the ability to produce these cells in high yields and high purity for clinical application. This is important for cost-efficient and reproducible future treatments.

She said,

“The problem I was faced with was that the chemicals used to generate the polymer surfaces can dissolve or corrode most materials they come into contact with. The MTC was able to successfully design and 3D print a device in a high strength polymer allowing me to house 30 devices for simultaneous and reproducible chemical treatment.”

MTC Manufacturing Support Services director Dean Baker said the work with Laurissa was a clear demonstration of how advanced manufacturing techniques can be used to make a beneficial impact on society. He said,

“Laurissa’s work is ground-breaking and could make a real difference to the way Parkinson’s disease is treated in the future. We were delighted to help her solve the practical problems she was facing in her research, using the sort of advanced design and manufacturing techniques for which the MTC is recognised as a leader.”

Find out more about the MTC here.


Pictured:  The MTC’s senior business development manager Nigel Knapp with PhD student Laurissa Havins.