Evi Lippens, PhD
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Controlling tissue patterning
While significant progress has been made in integrating stem cell biology with scaffold-based techniques for the production of bioengineered single-tissue constructs, a remaining challenge is the recreation of stable tissue boundaries between juxtaposed tissues present in the human body, for example cartilage and bone in articulating joints. Especially a treatment for the regeneration of functional cartilage remains a challenges. Quite often clinicians are confronted with lower quality fibrocartilage instead or even ossification of part of the cartilage in defect regions. Our aim is to investigate if we can use the developmental principle - of reaction-diffusion - in a regeneration strategy to create spatially distinct tissue patterning. We selected the regeneration of stable cartilage-bone boundaries as tissue model to test our assumption and use a biomaterial vehicle to create these activation-inhibitor gradients.
Mechanical competence of (regenerated) tissue
One way of evaluating the functionality of newly regenerated tissue is to compare its mechanical properties to that of the native tissue. Especially in weight bearing tissues such as articular cartilage it is pivotal for its function and consequently its long-term integrity that the regenerated tissue's elastic and dynamic modulus is restored. Additionally, following up over time the repair tissue's mechanical environment and how the cells cope with local stresses might help to better elucidate biomaterial based approaches towards tissue regeneration.
Targeted drug release
We are currently using different drug releasing vehicles for targeted drug release to help support the regeneration process.
On the one hand we are working with PLG (poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)) microbeads loaded with growth factors and their antagonists to be able to create scaffolds containing opposing growth factor gradients to investigate their potency to create distinct tissue patterns.
On the other hand we participate in a recently started Horizon2020 project, in which nanomatrices doped with selected ions (which are antimicrobial, pro-angiogenic and pro-osteogenic) will be synthesised and then loaded with anti-inflammatory and/or pro-angiogenic drugs to be used in the treatment of delayed bone healing.