Genomic Engineering Group / InteLAB
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Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Tissue Engineering

After about 30 years from its initial conceptual foundation, tissue engineering (TE) has now arrived at a somewhat critical stage. Recent advances in molecular biology and biomaterial development and characterization were not yet properly converted into in tissue engineering medical products (TEMPs). The major reason may be our lack of understanding of how the living cell interacts –at the molecular level– with surfaces and three-dimensional scaffolds of porous connecting materials. The engineering challenge may also be associated with the treatment of the open domain offered by the cell entity. The cell is a moving (open) boundary that responds to both external and internal processes. Thus cell-surface interactions are dynamically modulated by micro-environmental factors, that provide cell membrane inputs, as well as by gene expression waves, that concomitantly assure that cell behavior will adequately adjust to minimum free energy requirements that will sustain basic cellular functions. What is expected from the tissue engineer is that s/he will be well acquainted with both engineering and (bio)medical education, so that he or she can offer innovative solutions for problems requiring TE therapeutic interventions. At the heart of this cross-disciplinary field should stand a strong foundation on biochemical and physico-chemical phenomena, physiology, preferably supported by a chemical/process/materials engineering background (thermodynamics, transport phenomena, kinetics), and applied math. Therefore, the challenges faced by the young (as well as to the experienced) tissue engineer is keep expanding the knowledgeable frontiers without loosing track of his/her particular focus. Critical areas to be developed are “tailored” (genetically modified) biomaterials. Those should ideally be completely biocompatible and replaceable by due time. In this regard, biomaterials and scaffolds in general should have a “programmable” dynamics, so as to fulfill their basic purpose: to serve as a temporary template for the growing, migration and differentiation of cells. As cells continually replace the TE material, tissue is regenerated according to its DNA program and suitable microenvironment.

  • Biomaterials and Scaffolds  ( 3 items )

    In our group we are mainly studying polyhydroxyalkanoates and cellulose fibers, films and 3-D structures made from wild-type and genetically modified bacteria. At the fundamental level we are interested in the biosynthesis process, i.e., what is the actual polymerization active site and how its amino acid residues may be changed to get novel biopolymer properties; from bioprocess engineering perspectives, metabolic engineering and fermentation studies are carried out to improve biopolymer productivity; medical applications are focused on incorporating bioactive plant and bacterial secondary metabolites aiming novel TEMP developments.

  • Computational Tissue Engineering  ( 1 items )

    Computational tools are applied throughout all engineering activities. In tissue engineering (TE), computational assisted analysis and design is almost mandatory since TE projects have to be widely tested in vitro and in vivo (animal models) before they can be accepted as approved therapies. Hence, in silico tests, i.e., computational experiments are time-saving practices in the course of tissue engineering medical products (TEMPs). Modeling and simulation tissue engineering problems is a multi-disciplinary task, and efforts are being done to transfer and adapt computational approaches to treat soft and hard tissue integration with biological fluid flow. Computational Tissue Engineering in general and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in particular can benefit from the vast experience of engineering modeling and simulation produced by process engineers.

  • Bioactive Molecules  ( 3 items )

    Nature is plentiful of molecules that influence cell and tissue behavior by their particular structure or functional groups. Most of those molecules are found in living organisms, produced by the secondary metabolism of plants, bacteria and fungi. We have elected three of these molecules for our studies: violacein, aloin and acemannan. The first is a purple pigment produced by the genus Chromobacterium; the second and third are an antraquinone and a polysaccharide, respectively, produced the popular plant Aloe vera. We are investigating the integration of these bioactive molecules with biopolymers such as bacterial cellulose and polyhydroxybutyrate.

  • Cells and Tissues  ( 1 items )

    Works done with animal models are becoming more and more restrictive and in some cases, particularly where in vitro options are available, even unacceptable. The tissue engineer is urged to adapt and/or develop in vitro cell and tissue cultures to test the suitability of biological activity and further tissue engineering (TE) therapeutic evaluation. Together with reliable mathematical modeling of integrated scaffolds, in vitro techniques are key issues in the progress of TE science and engineering.

    In our labs we are using mammalian melanoma, fibroblast and other available cell lineages to evaluate TE medical products (TEMPs) and therapies.

  • Drug Delivery  ( 1 items )

    Drug delivery systems have been studied for a long time for a variety of products and bioactive molecules. More recently, nanoparticle and nanofiber systems have been considered as promising releasing matrices due to their intrinsic characteristics such as topical/local therapeutic agent delivery systems. Fabrication of such systems are challenging, particularly those characterized as soft particles colloidal suspensions. For the nanocapsule properties, physical and chemical mechanisms, mathematical models usually not consider cell-matrix interactions. Advances in this area will incorporate those interactions, at molecular level. We are particular interested in bioerodible delivery systems, i.e., systems where local delivery is not exclusively controlled by diffusion, but mainly by the matrix rate of biodegradation and integration.

  • Angiogenesis  ( 1 items )

    Angiogenesis, i.e., the process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels is important in physiology and pathology. Conditions associated with decrease in blood supply to certain tissues or organs may be used as a therapeutic method to treat vascular diseases particularly those characterized by excessive angiogenesis such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis or tumors. The angiogenic process, or the anti-angiogenic therapy, is directly affected by cell proliferation, migration and differentiation. But these cell fates are also influenced by extracellular matrix interactions and, in the case of tissue engineering contructs, by the interactions with scaffolds and film surfaces.

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