3D printing of scaffolds and biomolecules for enhanced tissue repair

Tissue engineering typically uses a combination of biomaterial scaffolds, cells and signaling mechanisms (such as growth factors or mechanical stimuli) to restore the function of damaged or degenerated tissues. The research carried out in our laboratory investigates each of these three areas with target applications in tissues including bone, cartilage, skin, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neural tissues. 3D printing has allowed us to tune the mechanical properties of our scaffolds and to develop bioinks with enhanced regenerative potential.

A major focus of ongoing research is to use the biomaterials as delivery systems for biomolecules such as growth factors or nucleic acids to enhance their therapeutic potential. These gene activated scaffold platforms thus not only act as a template for cell infiltration and tissue formation, but also provoke autologous host cells to over express specific genes and then engineer therapeutic proteins in a sustained but eventually transient fashion. In addition we have demonstrated how scaffold-mediated delivery of siRNAs and miRNAs can be used to silence specific genes associated with reduced repair or pathological states. This presentation will provide an overview of ongoing research in our lab in this area with a particular focus on advanced biomaterials for promoting bone, cartilage, nerve and wound repair.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Funding from a European Research Council Advanced Grant, ReCaP (agreement n° 788753)

A presentation by Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation & Prof. of Bioengineering & Regenerative Medicine at RCSI.

Interview

Question 1: What drives you?
Translational research focussed on making an impact clincially and the training of the next year research leaders.

Question 2: Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how revolutionary treatments based on gene therapeutics has helped overcome a once-in-a-century pandemic and has given new momentum to gene therapy research for a myriad of applications. The field of regenerative medicine is well placed to be a beneficiary whereby, for example, gene therapy might be a valuable tool to avoid the limitations of local delivery of growth factors. This presentation will provide an overview of ongoing research in our lab in this area with a particular focus on gene-activated biomaterials for promoting bone, cartilage, nerve and wound repair. Focus will also be placed on advances we are making in using 3D printing of gene activated bioinks to produce next generation medical devices for tissue repair.

Question 3: What emerging technologies / trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
The pandemic has given new momentum to gene therapy research for a myriad of applications. 3D printing provides a potential opportunity for localised delivery of biomolecules and a patient specific approach to regenerative medicine.

Question 4: What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Overcoming many of the clincial problems that were not possible in the last century

Question 5: What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
The balance between prioritising safety and regulatory requirements while not impeding the opportunity for excellent science to makes its way to the clinic efficiently. COVID vaccines have shown a way forward.

About Fergal O’Brien
Fergal J. O’Brien is Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation and Professor of Bioengineering & Regenerative Medicine in RCSI. He is a leading innovator in the development of advanced biomaterials for the repair of damaged organs and tissues. He has trained over 40 PhD students to completion and published >250 articles in leading journals. His research has seen numerous patent filings, formation of an RCSI spin-out company and translation of technologies for bone and cartilage repair to the clinic. He is a recipient of numerous awards including a €3million Advanced Grant from the European Research Council.

About RCSI
Founded as the national training body for surgery in Ireland, RCSI (Royal Collage of Surgeons in Ireland) has been at the forefront of healthcare education and research since 1784.
Today, we are an innovative, world-leading international health sciences university and the professional training body for surgery in Ireland.

We are leading the world to better health
A deep professional responsibility to enhance human health through endeavour, innovation and collaboration in education, research and service informs all that we do.

Our mission: To educate, nurture and discover for the benefit of human health.

Fergal O’Brien is speaker at the 2022 edition of the 3D BioPrinting Conference.

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