Background to the group and tissue engineering
This team (led by Prof Shakesheff and Drs Rose and Buttery) is affiliated with the Wolfson Centre for Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering & Modelling, within the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences.
The overall aim of tissue engineering research is to develop approaches to help restore full function and integrity to a tissue or organ that has been lost or damaged either through disease, congenital defect or traumatic injury. To achieve this, tissue engineering requires the ability to understand and co-ordinate the complex interactions between cells, inductive signals and scaffolds.
Scaffolds, delivery systems and physical manipulation of cells We are exploring interesting new ways to analyze and control the interactions between cells, inductive signals and scaffolds to promote the repair of tissues such as bone, cartilage, liver, cardiac muscle, gastro-intestinal tissues, pancreas as well as many other tissue types. We also apply these approaches to develop in vitro tissue models, such as liver and thymus that can used to study developmental and disease processes and to test new drugs.
We have extensive expertise in scaffold design, fabrication and analysis and work with both natural and synthetic polymers to produce an array of scaffolds with controlled size, shape and structure. Applying techniques such as supercritical CO2, with Professor Steve Howdle in the School of Chemistry, we are able to produce scaffolds with controlled porosity and can also incorporate functional bioactive molecules, helping cells and also blood vessels to grow on and into the scaffold. By blending different types of polymer we are able to produce temperature-sensitive scaffolds, which at room temperature can be mixed with cells and bioactive molecules and readily injected, via a syringe to self-assemble at body temperature into a scaffold with defined shape and structure.
Polymer scaffold containing a growth factor and illustrating controlled release from specific zones (a). Polymer microparticles with fibroblasts growing over the surface (b). Engineered and natural aggregation of embryonic stem cells over the same time course, illustrating rapid induction of cell interactions by the engineered method (c)
The group works with a wide range of cell types, such as primary cells released from adult tissues, including hepatocytes and stellate cells from the liver, and stem cells from tissues such as the bone marrow, small/large intestine and cornea. We also have an extensive library of cell lines, including mouse and human embryonic stem cells. In addition to scaffold environments, we use a variety of biochemical and physical approaches including stirred, rotating and perfusion bioreactors to control the biology of these various cell types. We have also developed novel chemically mediated methods to control cell-cell interactions and the formation of 3-D aggregates and this has proven especially useful in directing differentiation of embryonic stem cells. Our studies are performed over a wide size range, from growing centimetre size aggregates to creating micro- and nanoscale environments to simulate cell-specific niches, such as the intestinal crypt.
The group has an extensive cell culture suite and various wet labs for scaffold production and cell and molecular analyses. Specialist equipment includes high pressure supercritical CO2, rheometer, micro computed X-ray tomography and motorized video time lapse.
We have a number of collaborations within the School of Pharmacy and around the University, notably the Schools of Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences and Human Development. Key collaborators around the UK include Richard Oreffo (Southampton), Jon Cooper/Mile Padgett (Glasgow), David Williams (Loughborough)