2017 – 2021 EPSRC Programme Grant – Engineering growth factor microenvironments – a new therapeutic paradigm for regenerative medicine.
Our team at CeMi joins efforts with labs at Imperial College London (Prof Molly Stevens), Nottingham University (Dr Felicity Rose) and other labs in Glasgow (Prof Jon Cooper – University of Glasgow, Prof Godfrey Smith – University of Glasgow, and Dr Jo Mountford – SNBTS). We receive annual external advice from five selected top international experts in the field.
Our vision is to develop a toolbox of novel functional materials to modify the local stem cell niche in a flexible and dynamic manner in order to deliver new bioengineering-driven therapies in musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and haematological diseases. We are (in order of increasing risk and ambition): (1) developing innovative acellular bone scaffolds to engineer living bone graft with speed, efficiency and safety; (2) engineering systems to promote the maturation of cardiomyocytes in vitro (a major translational hurdle), so that large population of mature cells are available for either transplantation or for cardiotoxicity testing; 3) engineering bone marrow niches comprising mesenchymal (MSC) and haematopoietic (HSC) stem cells to allow better maintenance of clinically important HSCs (e.g. leukaemia therapies) to enable gene editing or even allow expansion of these cells in vitro – a stem cell ‘holy grail’.
We work with translation-ready approaches to achieve these grand challenges. Rather than take a traditional, biological approach of adding abundant growth factors (GFs) associated with numerous off-target effects in vivo, we focus on producing unique bioengineered environments that self-organise the ECM to present adhesion sites and enable GF delivery topically and at physiological levels; efficiently and safely.