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EU funds doctoral training in biomaterials research with around 4 million euros

As part of the Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) the European Training Network MgSafe, which has just been launched, 15 young researchers will investigate biodegradable magnesium implants.

As part of the Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) the European Training Network MgSafe, which has just been launched, 15 young researchers will investigate biodegradable magnesium implants. The project is coordinated by the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG); it brings together eight universities and research institutions as well as four technology companies from eight European countries. The European Union (EU) provides a funding programme of about four million euros.

Regine Willumeit-Römer.

An implant based on a magnesium alloy. Biodegradable implants would be advantageous for patients with many fractures as they would eliminate the need for a second operation to remove the implants. Copyright: HZG/Carsten Neff

For their research, the young scientists will use various imaging methods, which will enable them to most precisely monitor the behaviour of magnesium implants during the process of bio-compatible degradation. Biodegradable implants offer many benefits, for example for patients needing trauma or orthopaedic intervention (e.g. to fix fractures) because a second surgery to remove the metal implants after successful healing can be avoided. The participating scientists and representatives from industry meet for the first time at the kick-off meeting of the "MgSafe" network in Hamburg on 6 November 2018.

Prof. Dr. Regine Willumeit-Römer, coordinator of the project and Head of the Metallic Biomaterials Division at the Helmholtz Zentrum in Geesthacht, explains: "Biomedical imaging is fundamental to both diagnosis and therapy, because we need to monitor the behaviour of the degrading implant materials. There is still need for improvement as far as the new class of biodegradable magnesium-based implants is concerned. In the MgSafe project, we will establish new techniques while educating 15 PhD students interdisciplinary in both imaging and implant technologies."

Research-related training for young scientists

Apart from pursuing scientific development, the European Marie Skłodowska Curie networks aim at training highly talented doctoral students by providing them a framework of excellent research projects in an international environment. To this end, 15 junior scientists will begin their doctoral studies at the universities of Graz, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Hanover, Oslo, Pisa, and Warsaw in April of 2019. Their main target is to investigate the human body's reaction to the implant and monitor the behaviour of the material during magnesium degradation – with an unequalled degree of precision and detail.

The MSCA PhD students will be trained in interdisciplinary issues during workshops and spend secondments with the project partners to gain comprehensive knowledge in their research fields, which they will benefit from for their future scientific qualification.

Regine Willumeit-Römer.

The project coordinator, Prof. Dr. Regine Willumeit-Römer. ©: HZG/C.Schmid

At HZG, two doctoral students will start working on the HZG X-ray beamlines at the German Electron Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg. Among other things, they will improve high-energy differential-phase contrast tomography or X-ray scattering methods. The X-rays are used to make the smallest structures within the material visible. Such detection methods for degradable magnesium implants are not yet available, and the junior researchers are expected to set new standards.

Prof. Dr. Regine Willumeit-Römer: "We know how conventional implants behave within the body. Our novel implants form a class of their own, and we are urgently looking for suitable procedures to comprehend how the material behaves under real conditions."

MSCA – an industry-oriented approach

Ultimately, the work of this ambitious research network is expected to result in the development of new implant products. The new combination of imaging technologies developed within the project is a prerequisite for the desired increase in patient safety. The MSCA projects primarily follow an industry-oriented approach and, consequently, they significantly contribute to strengthening the correlation between academic and industrial research.

The Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions are part of the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020. The funding programme was launched by the European Commission and strives to make scientific careers more attractive whilst establishing Europe as an interesting location of research and creating a strong pool of European researchers.

The partners of the MgSafe project

  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht for Materials and Coastal Research, Metallic Biomaterials Department (Geesthacht, Germany)
  • National Research Council (CNR) Institute of clinical physiology (IFC) (Pisa, Italy)
  • Medical University of Graz, Department of Orthopaedics and Orthopaedic Surgery (Graz, Austria)
  • University of Oslo, Department of Biomaterial (Oslo, Norway)
  • Oslo Metropolitan University, Faculty of Technology, Art, and Design (Oslo, Norway)
  • Hannover Medical School (Hannover, Germany)
  • University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska Academy (Gothenburg, Sweden)
  • Warsaw University of Technology (Warsaw, Poland)
  • MRITools GmbH (Berlin, Germany)
  • Syntellix AG (Hanover, Germany)
  • Scanco Medical AG (Brüttisellen, Switzerland)
  • Fujifilm Sonosite B.V (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • BRI.Tech BioResorbable Implant Technologies (Graz, Austria)

Media Contact:

Dr.Torsten Fischer

Head of the public relations department, spokesman

Phone: +49 (0) 4152 87 1677

E-mail contact

Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht

Scientific Contact

Dr. Katharina Philipp

Institute of Materials Research

Phone: +49 (0) 4152 87 1241

E-mail contact

Metallic Biomaterials
Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht