UCL Ear Institute


Nazia Mehrban and Martin Birchall awarded grant for emPOWER project.

4 June 2020

The award comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Nazia Mehran and Martin Birchall profile images

Dr. Nazia Mehrban and Prof. Martin Birchall are both co-Investigators on an award totalling £6.1m for a collaborative project entitled emPOWER.

The project is being led by University of Bristol and includes UCL, Imperial College London and and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  

The multi-disciplinary emPOWER award will combine soft robotics, biomechanics, polymer chemistry, synthetic biology, neuro-rehabilitation and regenerative medicine, among others. The main aim is to create artificial muscles for implantation to:

1. Restore strength and control in mobility and manipulation in older people who have lost muscle strength and precision; and

2. Restore controllable muscular capabilities for sufferers of trauma, stroke, incontinence and degenerative diseases.

Commenting on the grant, Dr Mehrban said: "The Birchall group is dedicated to identifying solutions for the restoration of function in the head and neck with a particular focus on restoring voice and swallowing. The head and neck is an ideal test bed for many of the emPOWER concepts, as it contains 50% of the muscles in the human body, all of which are of tractable size and power for soft robotic enhancement, support and replacement.

I am hugely excited to  be able to develop de novo materials towards engineering functional muscle tissue that integrate with the surrounding healthy tissue in the body and creating implantable materials for soft robotics. Martin will be providing clinical input on muscle dysfunction and defining the high-level properties that emPOWER technologies will need to embody in order to deliver significant benefit to patients with life-limiting conditions".

Together they will be contributing their expertise on materials science and translational surgery throughout this ambitious project.