UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science


Centre for BioEngineering and Surgical Technology

The work we do focuses on understanding the causes of human musculoskeletal injury and disease and develop innovative therapies and technology to improve the quality of life of the people around us.

Head of Centre: Professor Alister Hart

The technology we develop is used to replace, restore and regenerate musculoskeletal tissues through the interaction of innovative materials with surgical techniques, cells and tissues. Currently the centre houses six academics (Prof Helen Birch, Dr Massimiliano Cerletti, Prof Alister Hart, Prof Chaozong Liu, Dr Deepak Kalaskar and Dr Catherine Pendegrass). Advances in materials science have allowed us to enter a new phase in both our understanding and our use of implanted material which interact with the body in a dynamic way. 

What we do

  • Translational stem cell research applied to scaffold materials used for the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues. This involves an investigation of cell augmented scaffold and implants to enhance fixation to the bone and repair of tendons and ligaments.  
  • Innovation of surgical techniques associated with medical devices. 
  • Development, follow up and retrieval of medical devices used to replace the musculoskeletal system. We have analyse retrieved implants including joint replacements and spinal devices.  This Centre compiles the retrieval data such as wear of implant articulating surface with patient details and is able to asses the success of implants  and to predict poor performance of medical devices . The centre not only has a research role, which is internationally recognized but is also informs surgeons and regulatory authorities about the failure associated with musculoskeletal medical devices.
  • The development of innovative scaffolds and materials used to regenerate, repair and replace the musculoskeletal system. These include the development of calcium phosphate bone graft substitutes, soft tissue scaffolds for tendon and ligament repair and the use of new materials for osteochondral scaffolds.
  • Investigate new methods of reducing by killing or preventing biofilm formation on devices surfaces. This work is associated with the development of bactericidal surfaces, anti fouling  implants and the use of new techniques to kill biofilms.

What we are hoping to achieve

Musculoskeletal conditions are prevalent and their impact is pervasive. They are the most common cause of severe long- term pain and physical disability, and they affect hundreds of millions of people around the world. They significantly affect the psychosocial status of affected people as well as their families and carers. In Europe, nearly a quarter of adults report having some form of arthritis or rheumatism, and 1 in 3 say they have had musculoskeletal pain restricting their activities of daily living in the previous week.  Musculoskeletal disorders constituted 38% of the total occupational diseases recorded.  In the UK around 20% of adults consult their GP with musculoskeletal conditions.  

25% surgical interventions in secondary care are for musculoskeletal disease.  Last year over 70,000 operations in England an Wales are for hip joint replacement surgery with many more replacements associated with other joins. The success of these procedures is associated with the development of materials combined with surgical techniques.  Most joint replacements are used to replace the worn out and damaged cartilage associated with burden of osteoarthritis.  Many more operations are associated with the treatment of soft tissue injuries such as tendon tears in the rotator cuff.  The aim of the material centre is to   increase the success of these procedures by developing and using appropriate materials and implants sometimes associated with tissue engineering to restore regenerate and replace musculoskeletal tissues.