Recent advances in tissue engineering have made progress towards the development of biomaterials with a capacity to deliver growth factors in order to promote enhanced tissue repair. However, controlling the release of these growth factors on demand and within the desired localized area for repair is a major challenge and the high costs and side effects associated with uncontrolled delivery has proved increasingly problematic in clinical applications. Gene therapy might be a valuable tool to avoid the limitations of local delivery of growth factors. While non-viral vectors are typically inefficient at transfecting cells, our group has had significant success in this area using a scaffold-mediated gene therapy approach for regenerative applications. These gene activated scaffold platforms not only act as a template for cell infiltration and tissue formation, but also as a ‘factory’ to provoke autologous host cells to take up specific genes and then engineer therapeutic proteins in a sustained but eventually transient fashion. Alternatively, the scaffold-mediated delivery of siRNAs and miRNAs can be used to silence specific genes associated with pathological states. 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 stable cartilage formation in joint repair and on the scaffold-based delivery of therapeutics for enhancing vascularization in bone repair and wound healing.
Prof. Fergal J. O'Brien is Chair of Bioengineering & Regenerative Medicine and Head of the Tissue Engineering Research Group in RCSI and PI & Deputy Director of the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research (AMBER Centre). He is a leading innovator in the development of advanced biomaterials for regenerative medicine. He is a member of the World Council of Biomechanics and has previously served as Biomaterials Topic Chair for the Orthopaedic Research Society and as an EU Council Member of TERMIS. His research focuses on the development and clinical translation of scaffold-based therapeutics for tissue engineering, with a major focus on functionalizing these scaffolds as systems to deliver biomedicines and as advanced 3D pathophysiology in vitro systems for drug development, studying cellular crosstalk and understanding disease states in cancer, angiogenesis, immunology and infection. He has published almost 200 journal articles, numerous book chapters & editorials in peer-reviewed international journals & books, filed 13 patents/disclosures and supervised over 35 doctoral students to completion. He has presented over 100 invited talks and has a current h-index of 58 (Feb, 2018).