SCIENTISTS from the region are to play a key role in a £5.7m centre being set up to develop tailor-made joint replacements for patients.

The Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices will bring together academics, clinicians and industrialists from across the north of England.

The aim is to maintain the UK's leading role in the medical technologies industry and improve the quality of lives of patients.

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Led by Leeds University, the centre includes experts from Newcastle, Sheffield, Nottingham and Bradford Universities and aims to transform the way joint replacements and other medical implants are made.

It has been funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: "The UK has a proud history of manufacturing but to build on this success industry needs access to the very latest science and technology.

"This £45m package of investment will see our world-class research base investigating innovative new manufacturing equipment and techniques.

"This will support our industrial strategy in a range of important sectors, driving growth and keeping the UK ahead in the global race."

Kenny Dalgarno, professor of manufacturing engineering at Newcastle University, who will be deputy director of the centre, said the Newcastle team would lead research into developing personalised "near patient manufacturing" processes.

"These novel near-patient and in-clinic manufacturing processes will in the future deliver medical devices that are tailor-made to meet individual patient needs," he said.

"Tissue structures will be replicated using 3D printing techniques, building the implants from bioactive materials which support or stimulate the body's own repair processes, the implant gradually being replaced with natural tissue over time."