University of Wollongong PhD student Sina Jamali will head to the United States to further his research on biodegradable stents after winning the 2013 Bill Wheeler award last night.
The $2000 community-funded award recognises the work of PhD students engaged in a medical bionics project that benefits the wider community.
Mr Jamali, 32, has been working on his research at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at UOW's Innovation Campus for the past two years.
He previously studied at Tehran Polytechnic in Iran and the University of Northampton in England.
He has teamed up with medical technologies company Boston Scientific to develop biodegradable stents, small mesh tubes that are inserted into blocked blood vessels to restore blood flow.
Stents are currently made of stainless steel or titanium and never break down in the body.
This can lead to long-term complications such as bleeding, kidney damage and serious allergic reactions.
Mr Jamali is focused on developing a coating for magnesium stents to allow them to last three to four months before dissolving into the bloodstream.
With 20,000 stents used in Australia each year, he says the research could have huge impacts.
"We know the artery after the stent is implanted remodels, takes a new shape, after three or four months. After that time, if we remove that stent, then the artery stays open," he said.
"If we could have a temporary stent that dissolves when it is not needed any more, we will have benefits of short-term survival and we won't have those long-term troubles."
While the stents are still in the laboratory testing stage, Mr Jamali said the results were promising so far.
He was excited to win the award because it will allow him to visit institutes in the United States early next year to further test the anti-corrosive properties of the coatings he has developed.
The Bill Wheeler award is named for the Illawarra community activist who died in 2007.
Running since 2009, it aims to encourage young researchers to pursue projects that will provide real solutions in medical bionics.