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Azam Ali thumbAssociate Professor Azam Ali.

Research into biomaterials involves the precise engineering of novel materials including molecularly engineered biomaterials (i.e. engineered therapeutics), fabrication of biomaterials into medical devices and technology for biomedical applications (human and animal). In addition to having specific physical, mechanical and biological properties, biomaterials must be biocompatible with healing and tissue regeneration abilities. Research therefore encompasses elements of medicine, materials science and tissue engineering.

Innovative materials can drive the creation of new products (e.g. medical devices and technology) in many life-science sectors. This makes it a crucial pillar for engineered therapeutics. Thus the biomaterials and bioengineering team have sound expertise and experiences in multifaceted applied and pure research and commercial sector partnership. Located within the Centre for Bioengineering and Nanomedicine (Dunedin hub), Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago, this research focuses on materials/biomaterials (including dental biomaterials) and their relationships with humans.


Associate Professor Azam Ali
Tel +64 3 479 7456
Mob +64 21 139 7912

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Current research topics

Skin and dermal tissue regeneration

The main goal of tissue engineering is to create a biocompatible and mechanically suitable architecture that allows cell migration, proliferation and angiogenesis for new tissue formation.

Electrospinning and emerging 3D Melt Electrowriting technology allows the fabrication of porous scaffolds that are in the nanoscale and mimic the natural extracellular matrix of dermal tissue (3D construct skin substitute). The successful creation of a skin tissue scaffold involves the careful selection of polymers in ideal combinations to obtain desired properties. The functionality of the scaffold can then be enhanced by incorporating bio-active cells that provide the correct stimulus for healthy neo-tissue formation.

Bone substitutes and bone ceramics

The aim of the bone graft and bone substitute research activities are to develop a biocompatible, biodegradable bone-graft substitute from reconstituted keratin and bioceramics including newly developed nano-structure hydroxyapatite (nHA) from mussel shells. This material will overcome the disadvantages associated with currently used bone substitutes constructed from typical polymers (e.g. polylactic acid-polyglycolic acid), bioceramics (tri-calcium phosphate, TCP), hydroxyapatite (HA), etc.

Dental biomaterials and bone grafts

Dental pathologies such as caries is one of the most prevalent diseases worldwide. Current therapies are merely cosmetic following removal of the disease and are not designed to produce cellular regeneration. Dental pulp contains stem cells capable of regenerating the dentine in the tooth; consequently, healthy dental pulp is essential for long term tooth survival. The aim of developing novel dental biomaterials and bone graft namely ‘No fill No drill” program is to incorporate reconstituted new keratin IFP (rKP) for excellent tissue healing and strength, reconstituted structural collagen (SCP) to provide cell support, and chitosan as an antibacterial substance into a triphasic hybrid biomaterial (3HB) consisting of dental fillers (e.g. DP or MTA). This newly derived 3HB together provide regenerative properties for the pulp-dentin tissues.

Intervertebral Disc (IVD) replacement

The main goal of the intervertebral disc (IVD) tissue engineering is to create a biocompatible and biodegradable functional construct that resolves issues associated with current IVD degeneration treatment. Through this project, we aim to develop a tissue-engineered IVD scaffold that structurally and functionally mimics the native IVD with enhanced cell proliferation and extracellular matrix formation.

Heart valve leaflet

Valvular heart disease (VHD) is a serious health burden affecting morbidity and mortality worldwide. The prevalence of VHD is expected to grow along with the global rise in population. VHD is characterized by the stiffening of the valve leaflets, resulting in stenosis, or regurgitation, and the backflow of the blood. Despite the advances in treatments for VHDs, current treatments are limited by the lack of durability and growth capability of prosthetic valves. Therefore, an alternative approach addressing these issues is required. Tissue engineering is gaining momentum due to its ability to design and fabricate tissue substitutes in vitro for replacement. For heart valve leaflet tissue engineering, either biopolymeric or/and synthetic polymeric biomaterials can be processed via various fabrication techniques such as electrospinning.

Medical gels

A chitosan/dextran(CD)-based, post-surgical gel, Chitogel, has proved itself to be a real winner; and stops bleeding, infection, and dramatically reduces adhesions following ear, nose, and throat surgeries. The two pot mixture sets within a minute to form a firm gel that is slowly degraded in the body. This biocompatible CD gel has been further optimized as an adult stem cell delivery vehicle and bioink for regenerative, wound healing applications.

Drug-eluting medical sutures

The aim of the drug-eluting suture research is to develop a system that incorporates suture materials with active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to achieve target drug release, which can effectively reduce surgical site infection.

Melt extrusion technique allows APIs to be homogeneously dispersed into the cross-section of the sutures. Not only can it potentially enhance solubility of poor water-soluble drug, but also the prolonged drug release can be achieved.

Neural tissue regeneration

The regeneration and repair of both the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system remain crucial challenges in tissue engineering. The underlying reason is that both CNS and PNS have limited capacity for self-regeneration in mammals, and lasting functional deficits are common after disease and injury. Biomaterials, both natural and synthetic in origin, have been continuously identified as having the potential for neural tissue engineering applications including neurite outgrowth, differentiation of human neural stem cells, and nerve gap bridging due to their unique biocompatible and non-immunogenic properties along with substantial regenerative potential and capacity. The aim of this project is to develop an injectable scaffold for CNS using biomaterials and anisotropically conductive material such as carbon nanotubes.

Granted patents

  • Wound care medical products containing wool keratin, US patent No. 7732574 and European patent No. EP1694370
  • Biocomposite biomaterials containing biopolymer wool keratin, US patent No. 7767756
  • Bone void fillers and methods of making the same, US Patent 8142807
  • Porous keratin construct and method of making the same, US Patent 8124735 and European patent: EP2099437 A2
  • Porous Keratin constructs, wound healing assembles and method using the same, US patent US/2008 0317826 A1
  • Nanocomposite negative photoresists for next-generation Lithography, US Patent No. 7049044 B2

Other research projects activities

  • 3D bioprinted regenerative, vascularized constructs for wound healing applications (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Dr Jaydee, Associate Professor Michelle McConnel, ….)
  • Antimicrobial polymers for dental and medical implants (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Dr Maree Gould, Professor Karl Lyons)
  • Biocomposite scaffolds for bone-tissue engineering (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Dr Amin Shavandi, Professor George Dias, Dr Maree Gould, Associate Professor Jaydee Cabral)
  • Biomaterials for treatment of intervertebral discs and spinal bone-tissue regeneration (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Associate Professor Jaydee Cabral, Associate Professor Michelle McConnel)
  • New Biomaterials from Dairy, Animal and Plant co-products (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Associate Professor Alan Carne, Dr Kate Ryder, Associate Professor Michelle McConnell)
  • Biometric scaffolds (Associate Professor Azam Ali and Dr Maree Gould)
  • Dental biomaterials and implants (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Professor Mauro Farella, Professor Karl Lyons, Dr Peter Lee, Dr Joe Anthon)
  • Drug delivery devices for treating bone infection and inflammation (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Associate Professor Michelle McConnell)
  • Drug delivery devices for dermal and typical wound care medical devices (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Dr Maree Gould)
  • Biopolymeric biomaterials, bioformulations for the treatment of sheep footrot (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Professor Aladdin Bekhit, Associate Professor Michelle McConnel)
  • Wearable sensors as medical devices (Associate Professor Azam Ali, Professor Raechel Laing)

Further projects

  • Therapeutic Biomaterials for medical devices
  • Biometric scaffolds
  • Restorative dental materials
  • 3D biofabrication/printing technology,
  • Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, personalized teeth
  • Implantable medical devices
  • Microencapsulation, medical implant coatings
  • Performance testing (including in vitro/in vivo evaluation) of medical devices
  • Regulatory affairs and documentations (e.g. ISO13485, 510K, FDA, TUV, TGA, etc.)

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Our people

Biomaterials research leader

Associate Professor Azam Ali, biomaterials science and engineering

Associate investigators

  • Associate Professor Jaydee Cabral, medical hydrogels, regenerative medicine, 3D bioprinting
  • Professor Karl Lyons, restorative dental biomaterials
  • Professor Paul Cooper, dental biomaterials and pulp-tissue regeneration
  • Associate Professor Rajesh Katare, therapeutic biomaterials including miRNA, Wound care, Cardiac ECM
  • Fraser Harrold, Soft and hard tissue mechanics, bone tissue engineering and regeneration
  • Professor John Reynolds, therapeutic biomaterial and delivery system; neural tissue repair and regeneration
  • Professor George J. Dias, biomaterials, biobased HA, bone graft and tissue engineering
  • Professor Mauro Farella , Medical implants/devices, smart brasses
  • Dr Jithendra Ratnayake, Dental Biomaterials, biobased HA, Dental Implants, bone graft
  • Dr Dominic Agyei (Department of Food Science), chemical & process engineering, bioactive biomaterials, formulations technology
  • Dr Sarah Sunderland, Antimicrobial biomaterials and in vitro / in vivo evaluation

External Collaborations

  • Dr Stewart Collie, Team Leader, AgResearch, Lincoln, Christchurch
  • Dr Volker Nock, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Collaboration on Biofabrication of free-standing protein patterning devices for bioengineering applications
  • Professor Maan Alkaisi (School of Electrical Engineering, University of Canterbury) Collaboration “Soft lithography towards Bionanotechnology for biomedical applications”.
  • Associate Professor Mark Staiger (School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury), collaboration on biocomposite scaffolds consisting of proteins-Mg for bone-tissue engineering applications
  • Associate Professor Frederique Vanholsbeeck (Department of Physics, University of Auckland).
  • Associate Professor Darren Svirskis, (School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland), Bioformulations Technology, Drug Delivery Devices (DDS); neural tissue regeneration
  • Dr Paul Rose, Team leader, Callaghan Innovation (ex IRL)
  • Dr Mathew Cumming (Team Leader, Plant & Food Research), Marine based biomaterials; Bioink preparation and soft-tissue engineering
  • Professor Robert Love, Dean & Head of Endodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Griffith University, Australia. students since 2014, scoping joint funding application including HRC/MHARC)
  • Professor Yusuke Yamauchi, Group Leader, AIBN, Queensland University, Australia
  • Professor Amar K Mohanty, Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials
    Professor, Department of Plant Agriculture & School of Engineering, Director, Bioproducts Discovery & Development Centre (BDDC), University of Guelph; ON, Canada
  • Professor Xungai Wang, Director, Institute of Frontier Materials, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
  • Professor Monique Lacroix, Director, Research Laboratories in Sciences, Canadian Irradiation Centre, INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Laval Québec Canada
  • Professor Dr Saion K Sinha, University Research Scholar University of New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  • Professor Hai Qiang Wang, Director, Spinal Unit, Department of Orthopaedics, Xijing Hospital Fourth Military Medical University, Xian 710032, China
  • Professor Ahmed El-Ghannam, Director of Orthopedic Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab., Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), Charlotte, NC 28223

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Rajabi, M., Cabral, J. D., Saunderson, S., & Ali, M. A. (2023). 3D printing of chitooligosaccharide-polyethylene glycol diacrylate hydrogel inks for bone tissue regeneration. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.37548

Bhowmik, S., Agyei, D., & Ali, A. (2023). Application of nanochitosan in the preservation of fish and oil. In C. O. Adetunji, D. I. Hefft, J. Jeevanandam & M. K. Danquah (Eds.), Next generation nanochitosan. (pp. 447-474). London, UK: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-323-85593-8.00031-X

Chen, Z., Hu, Y., Shi, G., Zhuo, H., Ali, M. A., Jamróz, E., … Peng, X. (2023). Advanced flexible materials from nanocellulose. Advanced Functional Materials. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/adfm.202214245

Bhuiyan, M. H., Clarkson, A. N., & Ali, M. A. (2023). Optimization of thermoresponsive chitosan/β-glycerophosphate hydrogels for injectable neural tissue engineering application. Colloids & Surfaces B. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2023.113193

Ray, P. N., Hoque, M. E., & Ali, M. A. (2023). Sodium alginate nanoadsorbents for wastewater treatment: Synthesis and characterizations. In A. Ahmad, I. Ahmad, T. Kamal, A. M. Asiri & S. Tabassum (Eds.), Sodium alginate-based nanomaterials for wastewater treatment. (pp. 235-271). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-823551-5.00014-8