THE University of Bolton has been handed a slice of £1.3 million to pioneer research in into artificial fibres which will repair or replace injured human tendons.

Researchers at the university are set to produce artificial fibres, which could be woven or braided into the body, replacing or repairing damaged tendons.

Tendons are the fibrous bands that connect muscle to bone. They are extremely strong but once damaged are difficult to treat or repair.

Tendon injuries are common in sport and physical exercise and can leave athletes sidelined for months.

Bolton Wanderers defender Sam Ricketts could not play for several months after he ruptured his Achilles tendon during a match against Wigan in February, 2011.

And David Beckham was ruled out of the 2010 World Cup after he tore his left Achilles tendon, while former England star and Stoke City player Michael Owen has seen his career blighted by hamstring and tendon problems.

Bolton is part of a consortium of international universities to secure about £1.3 million of funding for research into “functional tendon regeneration using loaded biomimetic scaffolds”.

This means they will be making artificial tendon fibres made of specially designed materials, including fibrous proteins such as collagen.

The university will be working with the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. About £214,000 of the funding will be allocated to Bolton.

Dr Mohsen Miraftab is leading the project at the university.

He said: “Given the importance of such an investigation and practical application of its outcome, success of this research could lead to further Pan-European project partnerships for the university.”

Two fully-funded researchers and a senior researcher from the University of Bolton have already been seconded to Vornia Ltd in Ireland — a spin-off company from NUI which designs and develops biomaterials for medical purposes and commercialisation.

The University of Bolton pioneers areas such as the biomedical applications of materials made from sea algae and crab shells for wound dressing applications and has developed the world’s first photovoltaic-piezoelectric fibre which can harness electricity from movement — such as wind and wave — and from the sun.

The universities secured funding from the Marie Curie Sponsorship Programme, which is a European-wide research grants system available to universities from any nationality or area of research.