Biomaterials are key components in a myriad of biomedical applications including medical devices, diagnostics, cancer, orthopaedic implants, cell engineering and regenerative medicine.

Our research is highly multidisciplinary and involves the design of advanced microenvironments to 1) understand and direct cell fate in physiological (stem cells) and pathological (cancer cells) conditions, 2) promote integration of implants and 3) direct tissue regeneration in different scenarios such as non-healing bone defects, osteoarthritis, myocardial infarcts and liver diseases.

We strive to design materials-based technologies to be translated into clinical trials and applications. This is done in collaboration with key local and international collaborators, clinical and industrial partners.

Research topics
Prof Liz Tanner Prof Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez
Dr Nikolaj Gadegaard Dr Huabing Yin

Advanced Materials

Prof Liz Tanner, Prof Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, Dr Nikolaj Gadegaard, Dr Huabing Yin

Biological systems are very sensitive to their micro- and nanoenvironment through chemical, mechanical and structural cues. Synthetic cues can be engineered through the control of the surface chemistry, topography or mechanical design which will provide precise control of the final material properties.

We take an interdisciplinary approach combining chemical surface modification and patterning as well as nanotopographical cues to engineer new classes of materials with novel and controlled surface properties. New biological-based materials are also synthesised in controlled microfluidic microenvironments for cell engineering applications.

Also, we engineer a broad range of 3D systems with enhanced properties (mechanical, degradation rate) for several applications including biodegradable scaffolds for tissue engineering, micro/nanoparticles for protein and drug delivery and hydrogels for cell encapsulation and transplantation.

The micro- and nanofabrication activities are carried out at the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre within the School in collaboration with other research divisions.

Cell Engineering

Prof Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, Dr Nikolaj Gadegaard, Dr Huabing Yin, Prof Liz Tanner

We engineer the cell-protein-material interface to direct cell function in physiological and pathological conditions, including the differentiation and renewal of stem cells and the behaviour of cancer cells. Cell adhesion to synthetic materials occurs through a layer of extracellular matrix proteins such as fibronectin, vitronectin and laminin. Cellular interaction with synthetic surfaces is highly dynamic in nature.

We engineer biointerfaces that consist of extracellular matrix proteins and growth factors with controlled conformation and distribution to deconstruct the complexity of the cell-material interface and decipher the mechanisms by which cells read the physical information in their surroundings and convert it into biochemical signals that control cell fate.

We address a variety of cellular processes, including cell adhesion, integrin expression and binding, the formation, structure and distribution of focal adhesions, remodelling of the extracellular matrix at the material interface and stem cell differentiation and renewal.

We also have close links to the Centre for Cell Engineering in the Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology.

Regenerative Medicine

Dr Nikolaj GadegaardProf Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, Dr Huabing Yin, Prof Liz Tanner

An important aspect of the research is the translation from bench to the bedside of the materials developed in the other sub-themes. Here we consider the possible translational routes which involves device design, manufacturing and pre-clinical tests.

The challenges involve the robust and simple fabrication of materials in three dimensions that incorporate mechanical, topographical and chemical cues designed previously designed as two-dimensional substrates, especially lithographic defined substrates.

We take a holistic approach to the manufacturing route which includes up-scaling and device design for pre-clinical experiments. Current projects involve therapeutic strategies for vascularisation, bone regeneration in non-healing defects and osteoarthritis. To realise our goals we work closely with clinicians at the local hospitals.