Tissue Engineering Research Group

The RCSI Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) is a large multidisciplinary research group focused on the development of cell and advanced biomaterial-based strategies for the repair and regeneration of bone, cartilage, skin, cardiovascular, ocular, respiratory, neural and other tissues.

In addition to the Department of Anatomy, it works closely with the School of Pharmacy and Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics (MCT) Department in RCSI and the Centre for Bioengineering in Trinity College Dublin (TCBE).

It is also part of the €58m Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre which is focused on developing advanced next generation materials and medical devices in partnership with industry. In addition to academic collaborators, TERG has numerous clinical collaborators in specialties including orthopaedics, otolaryngology, cardiovascular medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine.

TERG utilises biomaterials expertise to develop construct and living system technologies that can restore the structural and functional properties of damaged or degenerated tissues, whilst also trying to expand fundamental understanding in the fields of mechanobiology. TERG researchers also coordinate and/or have active roles in a number of EU consortia including DRIVE, AMCARE and GENE2SKIN.

Clinical applications

Individual collagen-glycoaminoglycan (coll-GAG) scaffolds developed specifically for bone and cartilage repair, have been combined into multi-layered scaffolds through novel fabrication procedures and are currently being assessed with respect to their capacity to heal osteochondral defects.

Using coll-GAG or collagen-hydroxyapatite (coll-HA) scaffolds to mimic native extracellular matrix, our ongoing research seeks to generate a vascular network within these porous scaffolds and encase this vascular network with calcified matrix to create an in-vitro fabricated bone graft substitute.

In collaboration with our partners at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, Dublin City University, we are developing collagen-based carriers for corneal limbal stem cell transplantation.

Elastin has been incorporated into our collagen-based scaffolds (which exhibit high tensile properties) to develop small diameter vascular grafts with compliance similar to native vessels, which are currently being optimised to promote tissue formation in vitro and facilitate healing in vivo.

In collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology, we are utilising novel engineering methods to create fibrin-infused collagen-based scaffolds to create 3D heart valve-shaped scaffolds.

In collaboration with the RCSI School of Pharmacy and NUIM's Department of Biology, we are designing growth factor-enhanced coll-GAG scaffolds for applications in respiratory drug development, disease modelling and airway regeneration.

Our scaffolds are being developed into targeted drug delivery platforms through the incorporation of bio-therapeutics such as drugs, proteins, peptides, and nucleic acids, thereby accelerating the healing capacity of these constructs.

Furthermore, we are pursuing the development of novel non-viral delivery vectors such as nano-hydroxyapatite, chitosan and PEI that can be used independently or in conjunction with the collagen-based scaffolds to enhance gene or nucleic acid delivery to cells.

In conjunction with MCT, the dynamic interaction between bacteria and bone cells during infection is being elucidated by using our collagen-based scaffolds to create a simplified in-vitro model system of bone. The incorporation of calcium phosphates into these collagen-based scaffolds is also being used to gain insight into the behaviour of breast carcinoma cells in pseudo un-mineralised and mineralised environments.

In collaboration with researchers in Trinity College Dublin, we are focused on the role of both cytoskeletal deformation and primary cilia as sensory mechanisms of mechanotransduction employed by mesenchymal stem cells, osteoblasts and osteocytes.

Our lab is specifically interested in identifying genes that are mechanically augmented in response to shear stress and how these genes subsequently regulate the recruitment and differentiation of cell subsets that are crucial to bone formation and resorption processes. We are also interested in elucidating how the mechanosensitivity of these cells is altered in disease states such as osteoporosis.

This aspect of our research focuses on bone biomechanics and osteoporosis. We are particularly focused on bone quality and the disparity between bone mineral density and bone fragility.Hierarchical studies of healthy and diseased bone, from whole bone mechanical testing down to gene expression analysis, identify early changes in the disease pathway.

In conjunction with basic research, we are working with industry partners to validate new diagnostic tools and early stage management of osteoporosis. The information gained in these studies is also being used to improve our ability to replace damaged or diseased bone in patients.