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Dr David Steele 

Position: Adjunct Senior Research Fellow
Division/Portfolio: Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment
School/Unit: Division Office Research IEE
Group: Mawson Institute
Campus: Mawson Lakes Campus
Email: David_dot_Steele_at_unisa_dot_edu_dot_au
URL for Business Card: http://people.unisa.edu.au/David.Steele

My research career, both academic and commercial, has been based in the allied fields of cell therapy and medical devices. To date I have focussed on the application of plasma processing for cell therapies with this research leading to applications with a number of cell types including epithelial (skin, cornea and retina), endothelial (cardiovascular) and adipocyte (breast reconstruction). Having worked within the contact lens and intraocular manufacturing industry my current research focus is in the area of cell therapy of blinding ocular conditions such as trachoma and age-related macular degeneration.

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1995: The University of Sheffield BSc. (Hons) Chemistry and Materials Science

2000: The University of Sheffield (PhD) 'The Use of Radio Frequency Plasma for the Surface Modification of Polymers: A Physical and Chemical Investigation'

Research interests

  • Biomaterials, Cell Therapy, Plasma Physics, Plasma Polymerisation
  • The 21st century has brought with it significant challenges, and here in South Australia, as our population continues to age, there are specific health areas which will need to be considered. The Mawson Institute aims to address these difficulties through novel manufactured materials and novel applications of materials.
  • The cornea, the eyes window on the world, plays a vital role in ocular function by allowing passage of light through a transparent surface. Maintenance of corneal clarity and vision is dependent upon the integrity of the corneal surface which, when damaged through injury or disease, can lead to blindness. Plasma polymer coatings are films produced from organic compounds which can be used to provide surfaces for specific types of cells. By applying this technology to coat contact lenses we have the potential to restore vision by transplanting a new corneal surface grown in the laboratory from the patients own cells. The coating technology was first developed by Professor Short et al. for resurfacing skin after trauma such as burns or scalds and subsequently used in the treatment of chronic wounds. Now, in an international collaboration involving the Mawson Institute, this technology is being developed for use in a number of eye conditions such as ocular trauma and age related macular degeneration, a disorder of the retina, which is the single largest cause of blindness in people aged over 65. Some of the research activities in the area are described below:
  • The Delivery of Bioactive Molecules for Ocular Trauma: Delivering therapeutic compounds into the body in a precisely controlled and targeted manner is an ongoing challenge. Ocular drug delivery is necessary to slow disease progression but is especially difficult due to physiological barriers and the space limitations in and surrounding the eye. Left untreated chronic retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa can lead to irreversible blindness. Currently available treatment methods include topically and orally administered medications, intraocular injections and surgical intervention.
  • Intraocular: This discovery project will focus on the use of biodegradable polymer surfaces loaded with biologically active small molecules. A range of techniques including plasma surface engineering and nanotechnology will be employed. Such target molecules include; Bevacizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody and Ranibizumab, a Fab fragment derived from the same parent molecule as Bevacizumab which are both indicated for the treatment of ARMD; Fluocinolone acetonide (FA) a synthetic hydrocortisone derivative anti-inflammatory indicated for ocular trauma and Ethacrynic acid (ECA) a potential glaucoma drug that can reduce intraocular pressure.
  • Cornea/Conjunctiva: A parallel project for the surface of the cornea and conjunctiva, utilising similar techniques, will investigate the use of therapeutic soft contact lenses as the delivery vehicle. Target molecules here will include atropine, tetracycline and anti-inflammatory drugs for conditions such as corneal ulcers, trachoma and scleritis.
  • Towards the development of a bioengineered cornea: This project’s ultimate aim is to develop a complete bioengineered cornea comprising the corneal epithelium, stroma and endothelium. In vitro permeation studies play an important role in discovery, development, and selection of new ophthalmic drugs or drug delivery systems for application to the eye. In these studies numerous rabbits are needed and differences between species may impair the predictability of the results. In addition to the moral objections of animal experimentation the high numbers of animals required and the extensive maintenance costs drive the obligation to establish standardised and competitive in vitro test systems based upon a bioengineered corneal model.

Research publications

D. Barton, J. W. Bradley, D. A. Steele and R. D. Short, 'Investigating Radio Frequency Plasma Used for the Modification of Polymer Surfaces.', Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 103, 4423-4430, (1999)

D. Barton, J. W. Bradley, K. J. Gibson, D. A. Steele and R. D. Short, 'An In Situ Comparison between VUV Photon and Ion Energy Fluxes to Polymer Surfaces Immersed in an RF Plasma.', Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 104 (30), 7150-7153, (2000)

D. B. Haddow, R. D. Short, D. A. Steele, I. M. Brook, P. V. Lawford, S. MacNeil and S. Kothari, ‘'Plasma Copolymerised Surfaces to Enhance Cell Culture.', Polymer Surface Modification: Relevance to Adhesion, Vol. 2, Ed. K. L. Mittal, VSP, 539-549, (2000)

D. B. Haddow, D. A. Steele, R. D. Short, R. A. Dawson and S. MacNeil, ‘Plasma-polymerized Surfaces for Culture of Human Keratinocytes and Transfer of Cells to an in vitro Wound-bed Model.', Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, 64A, 80-87, (2003)

Nicola Wells, Melissa Baxter, Jeremy E. Turnbull, Patricia Murray, David Edgar, Kristina L. Parry, David A. Steele and Robert D. Short, ‘The Geometric Control of E14 and R1 Mouse Embryonic Stem Cell Pluripotency by Plasma Polymer Surface Chemical Gradients’, Biomaterials 30 (6), 1066-1070, (2009)

Robert A. Walker, Vincent T. Cunliffe, Jason D. Whittle, David A. Steele and Robert D. Short, Submillimeter-Scale Surface Gradients of Immobilized Protein Ligands, Langmuir 25 (8), 4243-4246, (2009)

S P Low, R D Short and D A Steele, “Plasma Polymer Surfaces for Cell Expansion and Delivery.”, Surface and Interfacial Aspects of Cell Adhesion, (A. Carré and K.L. Mittal Eds.), VSP Brill, 451-472, (2010)

I. Djordjevic, N. Roy Choudhury, N. K. Dutta, S. Kumar, E. J. Szili, D. A. Steele, 'Polyoctanediol Citrate/Sebacate Bioelastomer Films: Surface Morphology, Chemistry and Functionality.', Journal of Biomaterials Science, 21, 237–251, (2010)

D. E. Robinson, D. J. Buttle, J. D. Whittle, K. L. Parry, R. D. Short, D. A. Steele, 'The Substrate and Composition Dependence of Plasma Polymer Stability.', Plasma Processes & Polymers, 7, 102-106, (2010)

P. M. Bryant, E. J. Szili, T. Whittle, S.-J.Park, J. G. Eden, S. Al-Bataineh, D. A. Steele, R. D. Short, J. W. Bradley, 'The use of a micro-cavity discharge array at atmospheric pressure to investigate the spatial modification of polymer surfaces.', Surface & Coatings Technology, 204, 2279–2288, (2010)

D. A. Steele and R. D. Short, 'Applications of Plasma Polymerization in Biomaterials.', Industrial Plasma Technology: Applications from Environmental to Energy Technologies, Ed. Y. Kawai, H. Ikegami, Et al., Wiley-VCH, 165-180, (2010)

D. Hegemann, D. A. Steele and R. D. Short, 'Joint Commentary to the Debate.', Plasma Processes and Polymers 7, 365, (2010)

R. D. Short and D. A. Steele, 'Testing the Hypothesis: Comments on Plasma Polymerisation of Acrylic Acid Revisited.', Plasma Processes & Polymers, 7 (5), 366-370, (2010)

I. Djordjevic, N. Roy Choudhury, N. K. Dutta, S. Kumar, E. J. Szili, D. A. Steele, Osteoblast Biocompatibility on Poly(octanediol citrate)/ Sebacate Elastomers with Controlled Wettability', Journal of Biomaterials Science, 21, 1039-1050, (2010)

S. P. Low, R. D. Short and D. A. Steele, 'Plasma Polymer Surfaces for Cell Expansion and Delivery.', Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology, 24, 2215-2236, (2010)

Priest C, Gruner PJ, Szili EJ, Al-Bataineh SA, Bradley JW, Ralston J, Steele DA, Short RD, Microplasma patterning of bonded microchannels using high-precision "injected" electrodes. Lab on a Chip 2011;11(3):541-544.

E Szili, R D. Short, J W Bradley, D A Steele, “Plasma polymerization in the preparation of biomaterial surfaces.”, Surface Modification of Biomaterials, (R. Williams Ed.), Woodhead, Cambridge, UK (2011)

Szili EJ, Al-Bataineh SA, Bryant PM, Short RD, Bradley JW, Steele DA. Controlling the Spatial Distribution of Polymer Surface Treatment Using Atmospheric-Pressure Microplasma Jets. Plasma Processes and Polymers 2011;8(1):38-50.

Zou L, Vidalis I, Steele D, Michelmore A, Low SP, Verberk J. Surface hydrophilic modification of RO membranes by plasma polymerization for low organic fouling. Journal of Membrane Science 2011;369(1-2):420-428.

D. A. Steele, R. D. Short, P. Brown, C. A. Mayhew, 'On the Use of SIFT-MS and PTR-MS Experiments to Explore Reaction Mechanisms in Plasmas of Volatile Organics: Siloxanes.', Plasma Processes and Polymers, 8, 287-294, 2011

S. A. Al-Bataineh, E. J. Szili, A. Mishra, S. J. Park, J. G. Eden, H. J. Griesser, N. H. Voelcker, R. D. Short, D. A. Steele, 'Design of a Microplasma Device for Spatially Localised Plasma Polymerisation', Plasma Processes and Polymers, 8 (8), 695-700, (2011)

J. D. Whittle, R. D. Short and D. A. Steele, Reply to "Testing the Hypothesis: Comments on Plasma Polymerization of Acrylic Acid Revisited", Plasma Processes and Polymers, 8 (8), 687-688, (2011)

A. Michelmore, P. M. Bryant, D. A. Steele, K. Vasilev, J. W. Bradley, R. D. Short, 'Role of Positive Ions in Determining the Deposition Rate and Film Chemistry of Continuous Wave Hexamethyl Disiloxane Plasmas.', Langmuir, 27 (19), 11943-11950, (2011)

J. Whittle, D. Steele, A. Michelmore and R. Short, 'Plasma research at UniSA: Reconnecting the physics with the chemistry.', Australian Physics, 48 (5), 143, (2011)

Robinson, DE, Buttle, DJ, Short, RD, McArthur, SL, Steele, DA, Whittle, JD, 'Glycosaminoglycan (GAG) binding surfaces for characterizing GAG-protein interactions', Biomaterials 33 (4), 1007, (2012)

Endre J. Szili, Sameer A. Al-Bataineh, Craig Priest, Philipp J. Gruner, Paul Ruschitzka, James W. Bradley, John Ralston, David A. Steele and Robert D. Short, 'Integration of microplasma and microfluidic technologies for localised microchannel surface modification.', Proceedings of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), 8204, 82042J1-7 (2012)

Sameer A. Al-Bataineh, Endre J. Szili, Gilles Desmet, Paul Ruschitzka, Philipp J. Gruner, Craig Priest, Nicolas H. Voelcker, David A. Steele, Robert D. Short, Hans J. Griesser, 'Chemical and biomolecule patterning on 2D surfaces using atmospheric pressure microcavity plasma array devices.', Proceedings of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), 8204, 82043H1-11, (2012)

Andrew Michelmore, Lauren Clements, David A. Steele, Nicolas H. Voelcker, and Endre J. Szili, 'Gradient Technology for High-Throughput Screening of Interactions between Cells and Nanostructured Materials', Journal of Nanomaterials, 839053, (2012)

Sameer A. Al-Bataineh, Endre J. Szili, Philipp J. Gruner, Craig Priest, Hans J. Griesser, Nicolas H. Voelcker, Robert D. Short and David A. Steele, ‘Fabrication and Operation of a Microcavity Plasma Array Device for Microscale Surface Modification’, Plasma Processes and Polymers, 9 (7), 638-646, (2012)

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