A ‘delightful surprise’ for Action funded researcher Professor Elizabeth Tanner as she receives an OBE for services to biomedical engineering | Action Medical Research

A ‘delightful surprise’ for Action funded researcher Professor Elizabeth Tanner as she receives an OBE for services to biomedical engineering

8 January 2016

Professor Elizabeth Tanner, Professor of Biomedical Materials at the University of Glasgow, has been awarded an OBE for services to Biomedical Engineering.

Professor Tanner said: “It was a delightful surprise. I am so pleased because it shows that the work I have been doing in biomedical engineering for the past 30 years has been worthwhile, benefitting people and patients.”

Professor Tanner specialises in the development and use of bioactive materials for bone augmentation and replacement.

She is currently leading a two-year study to help babies with rare breathing difficulties, funded by the children’s charity Action Medical Research.

The aim is to design a new type of biodegradable stent especially for babies and young children who have severe breathing difficulties because their windpipe has not formed properly or has been damaged – by an infection, for example.

“Surgeons can insert an expandable metal tube – or ‘stent’ – into the windpipe to hold it open,” explains Professor Tanner. “However, they tend to do this only if all else fails, because a lack of suitable stents has been causing problems.”

Existing stents cannot be expanded to adult size. They become heavily embedded within the windpipe and stop the windpipe from growing. Stents may have to be removed surgically and, sadly, children have died because of these operations.

“We aim to develop new stents that are non-toxic, small enough to fit inside a newborn baby’s tiny windpipe, and flexible enough to move safely with the baby while keeping their windpipe open,” says Professor Tanner. “The stents will be expandable, so that they can easily be made bigger as the child grows. What’s more, since many children with these sorts of breathing difficulties grow out of their problems, we are designing the stents so that they slowly degrade within the body, meaning children will not have to undergo further, potentially hazardous surgery to remove their stent.”

“We are now about to order the last material needed to develop the final prototype. This work simply would not have been possible without funding from Action Medical Research,” adds Professor Tanner.

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A high-res picture of Professor Tanner can be downloaded from this link:


 Notes to editors:

  • Professor Tanner started her career with a degree in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, completed in 1979. Since then she has held a number of senior academic and teaching posts and has published more than 160 papers and book chapters. She joined the University of Glasgow in 2007 and, as Head of Biomedical Engineering Teaching from 2010-15, developed new BEng and MEng degrees – the first undergraduate biomedical engineering degrees in Scotland. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
  • Professor Tanner’s current study is funded by very generous donors including a contribution from The Ward Family Charitable Trust. For more information about this work, please see: https://www.action.org.uk/our-research/could-specially-designed-implants-help-babies-rare-breathing-difficulties


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Kate Lee, Research Communications Officer

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E: klee@action.org.uk

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Action Medical Research is a leading UK-wide charity working to save and change children’s lives through medical research. We believe that the diseases that devastate the lives of so many of our children can be beaten. We have been funding medical breakthroughs since we began in 1952 like the first polio vaccines in the UK, ultrasound in pregnancy and the rubella vaccine – helping to save thousands of children’s lives and change many more.

Just one breakthrough, however small, can mean the world. Charity reg. nos 208701 and SC039284.


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