Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine represent a significant opportunity to create step-change in our approach to the treatment of disease, trauma and congenital defect. The Group is developing techniques that take small numbers of healthy cells from the patient and grow these in vitro into functional tissues such as bone and cartilage. These tissues can then either be re-implanted to repair or augment damaged or diseased tissues, or they can be used to generate a biofunctional extracellular matrix that has potent signalling capacity that may be used to stimulate tissue repair in the patient.
Scaffolds are three-dimensional supports that encourage the growth and development of replacement healthy tissue, and the integration of the new tissue with the body. In the early stages after surgery, scaffolds may also provide a useful mechanical replacement for the missing tissue, until the engineered and recovering local host tissues have developed and been fully integrated within the patient's body. Our Group is concerned with the development of scaffolds to increase the quality of the tissue that can be successfully engineered. The cells may grow to adopt the shape of the scaffold, so this feature can also be used to generate an implant tissue of the correct shape.
Complex in vitro models and culture techniques
Complex in vitro models developed using static culture or in bioreactors represent powerful new tools to investigate both disease processes and new therapeutic strategies. They can be used to examine the response of specialised human tissues to new biomaterials. Information on biocompatibility, toxicology and other biological phenomena can be obtained using these new models. For example, we have developed a complex in vitro oral mucosa model to analyse the effect of oral pharmaceuticals and dental materials on the mouth. We are also working with innovative companies on the translation of this research from the laboratory bench to standardised test methods for industry.