Australian Research Council Training Centre for Innovative BioEngineering


Ultra-precision nano-sensor could detect iron disorders

Chronic iron imbalances – having either too little or too much iron in the blood – can result in medical conditions ranging from anaemia and haemochromatosis through to more severe diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Haemochromatosis is one of Australia’s most common hereditary diseases and the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates approximately 780,000 people live with anaemia.

School of Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate and Sydney Nano Institute student ambassador, Pooria Lesani, who is undertaking his studies under the supervision of Professor Hala Zreiqat and Dr Zufu Lu, has developed a multipurpose nanoscale bio-probe that allows researchers to precisely monitor iron disorders in cells, tissue, and body fluids as small as 1/1000th of a millimolar.

The test is more sensitive and specific than blood testing currently used to detect iron disorders, which begin at very low, cellular level concentrations.

Using novel carbon-based fluorescent bio-nanoprobe technology, the test, which involves non-invasive subcutaneous or intravenous injections, allows for a more accurate disease diagnosis before the onset of symptoms, potentially allowing for the early treatment and prevention of more serious diseases.

“More than 30% of the world’s population lives with an iron imbalance, which over time can lead to certain forms of cancer, as well Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Mr Lesani from the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Research Unit and the ARC Centre for Innovative BioEngineering.

“Current testing methods can be complex and time consuming. To counter this, and to enable the early detection of serious diseases, we have developed a hyper-sensitive and cost-efficient skin testing technique for detecting iron in the body’s cells and tissue.

Iron disorders can lead to serious health issues such as haemochromatosis, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Credit: Pooria Lesani, University of Sydney.

“Our most recent testing demonstrated a rapid detection of free iron ions with remarkably high sensitivity. Iron could be detected at concentrations in the parts per billion range, a rate ten times smaller than previous nano-probes.

“Our sensor is multifunctional and could be applied to deep-tissue imaging, involving a small probe that can visualise structure of complex biological tissues and synthetic scaffolds.”

Tested on pig skin, the nanoprobe outperformed current techniques for deep tissue imaging, and rapidly penetrated biological tissue to depths of 280 micrometres and remained detectable at depths of up to 3,000 micrometres – about three millimetres – in synthetic tissue.

The team aims to test the nanoprobe in larger animal models, as well as investigate other ways in which it can be used to determine the structure of complex biological tissues.

 We hope to integrate the nanoprobe into a “lab-on-a-chip” sensing system – a portable, diagnostic blood testing tool which could allow clinicians to remotely monitor their patients’ health.

“Lab-on-a-chip systems are relatively simple to operate and require only small blood volume samples from the patient to gain an accurate insight of potential ferric ion disorders in the body, assisting early intervention and prevention of disease,” he said.

The nano-sensors can also be made from agricultural and petrochemical waste products, allowing for low-cost, sustainable manufacturing.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Sydney.

Journal Reference: 

Pooria Lesani, Gurvinder Singh, Christina Marie Viray, Yogambha Ramaswamy, De Ming Zhu, Peter Kingshott, Zufu Lu, Hala Zreiqat. Two-Photon Dual-Emissive Carbon Dot-Based Probe: Deep-Tissue Imaging and Ultrasensitive Sensing of Intracellular Ferric IonsACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2020; 12 (16): 18395 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.0c05217

Synthetic material could help heal injured tendons and ligaments

Researchers from the University of Sydney have collaborated with Columbia University and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg to develop a synthetic material to assist in the regeneration of injured tendons and ligaments.

The research hopes to improve the outcomes of sport injury surgeries. Credit: Pixabay

Australia’s love of sport means it has one of the highest rates of knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and reconstruction in the world.

Worldwide, the costs of tendon and ligament rupture repair and surgery revision represent tens of billions of dollars of the clinical orthopaedic market. 

A team of biomedical engineering researchers from the University of Sydney, working with the Regenerative Engineering Laboratory at Columbia University and the FAU Erlangen-Nurnberg Institute of Medical Biotechnology (Germany), are hoping to improve the outcomes of tendon and ligament repair by developing a new synthetic scaffold for their regeneration.

Led by the Head of the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Unit and Director of the Australian Research Centre for Innovative BioEngineering, Professor Hala Zreiqat, working with postdoctoral researcher Dr Young No, the researchers are the first to develop and patent novel fibre-reinforced hydrogel scaffolds, a synthetic substance that has the ability to mimic and replace human tendon and ligament tissue. 

“Ruptures to tendons and ligaments mostly occur in accidents and when playing sport. Worldwide and particularly in Australia, there is an immense clinical need for the development of readily available, off-the-shelf, mechanically strong synthetic tendon scaffolds,” said Professor Zreiqat, from the ARC Centre for Innovative BioEngineeringSchool of Biomedical Engineering and the Sydney Nano Institute.

“Conservative methods using immobilisation casts and movement restricting splints and braces often require several weeks of rehabilitation to achieve minimal functional recovery, while current implants carry a higher risk of rejection and infection.

“Our technology hopes to fast-track the restoration of tendons’ and ligaments’ mechanical function and support the growth of collagen tissue, without compromising the body’s biological response.”

Tested on patellar tendon models in rats, the synthetic scaffold has been developed with a stress resistance and water volume similar to real tendons and ligaments, allowing for the improved in-growth of collagen tissue. 

“Until now, synthetic scaffolds have come with a significant risk of implant failure, as well as poor biological tissue integration and abrasion,” she said.

“Human tendons and ligaments are 70 percent water – they are complicated structures that include blood vessels, nerves and lymphatic vessels and perform the task of linking bone to muscle and moving the body.

“For synthetic scaffolds to be accepted by the body, their physical and chemical architecture must align with human tendons and ligaments.”

The researchers now hope to investigate the long-term behaviour of these scaffolds in both internal and external bodily conditions, as well as to observe tissue integration and biomechanics in larger animal models. 

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Sydney.

Journal Reference: 

No, Y.J., et al. (2020) High-Strength Fiber-Reinforced Composite Hydrogel Scaffolds as Biosynthetic Tendon Graft Material. ACS Biomaterials Science &


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

Allegra to Supply Australian-Made and TGA-approved Face Shields

As a result of the severe and mounting disruption to the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), Allegra Orthopaedics has commenced distribution of high-quality face shields which are Australian designed and manufactured.

Healthcare workers rely heavily on PPE to protect themselves and patients from contracting and also transferring COVID-19. These face shield, approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has enabled Allegra to diversify its product range and provide Australian-made protective equipment to meet hospital needs now and into the future.

Jenny Swain, Allegra Chief Executive Officer, said: “We feel very proud to be able to supply Australian designed and manufactured face shields for our front line carers. The current demand for PPE Illustrates the need for companies to be ready to diversify during this global uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. I am pleased to say that Allegra has been proactive in making this happen and more importantly, we are supporting Australian manufacturing. At Allegra, we work with many Australian partners such as The University of Sydney and the Australian Research Centre for Innovative BioEngineering, which provide the perfect combination for collaboration of interests promoting research partnerships between researchers and industry”.


We aim to help bring the freedom and happiness of pain-‐free movement to people’s lives. We achieve this through providing the best possible solutions for patients, from world-‐wide industry leading orthopaedic products through to Australian innovations. Allegra’s principal product, the Active Total Knee, has significantly improved the quality of life for many people and remains a focused product line. Allegra is also the exclusive distributors of Waldemar Link GmbH & Co. KG products in Australia. Link consists of a range of complex lower limb, hip and knee replacements, including oncology solutions. The Link products add to Allegra’s well-developed range of products for distribution from international suppliers covering all specialties from foot and ankle to upper limb. The company is pleased to continue to build upon its extensive portfolio of patents. It has strong research relationships with universities, companies and surgeon inventors, including its global licensee to the composite biocompatible ceramic material known as Sr-HT-Gahnite from the University of Sydney.

Allegra Orthopaedics Limited
Level 8, 18 -‐ 20 Orion Rd, Lane Cove West NSW 2066 Australia; PO Box 72 St Leonards NSW 2065 Australia
T +612 9119 9200 T Toll Free 1800 644 370
F +612 9439 4441 F Toll Free 1800 624 223

Our recently published research article

Congrats to Mr Pooria Lesani for publishing his recent outstanding achievements on developing multifunctional nanoprobe for deep-tissue imaging and intracellular sensing of metal ions in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces under supervision of Professor Hala Zreiqat.



Congratulations to Professor Hala Zreiqat and Dr Young No on their recent exceptional achievements in developing a synthetic material with the ability to help heal injured tendons and ligaments.


Surface Modification of Orthopedic Devices by Plasma Spraying

Surface modification of orthopedic devices by employing coating technology imparts multi functionality such as surface texturing, antifouling, biological fixation and chemical compatibility. The majority of these coatings are applied on the bone-contacting surface of the implants via the plasma spray coating technique. The research team at Swinburne University of Technology, led by Professor Christopher Berndt and Dr Andrew Ang, specialises on developing novel bio-coatings; using these high temperature plasma jets to spray thin films or thick bio-ceramic coatings that range from tens of nanometers to hundreds of micrometers in thickness, see Figure (a). Current applied projects with academic and industry partners focus on new compositions of bio-ceramic materials, optimisation of coating microstructure for osseointegration and enhancing implant longevity, see Figure (b). It is vital to understand the relationship between these microstructures in terms of porosity and phase distribution in three dimensions and relate this knowledge to mechanical properties such as adhesion and biocompatibility. These next generation orthopaedic coatings are based on phosphate and silicate bio-ceramic materials: materials that exhibit excellent synergism between bone bioactivity and biocompatibility. Figure (c) shows the end result of this applied R&D; a bio-ceramic coating onto a commercial orthopaedic implant.

Caption: (a)Operation of atmospheric plasma spray at Swinburne University of Technology. (b)Observation on surface topography of a plasma spray coating at Swinburne University of Technology. (c)Finished bioceramic coating on the knee implant.



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