Advanced scaffold-based therapeutics for regeneration of large volume, vascularised bone defects

Although bone has a natural capacity to repair itself following fracture, problems arise when large critical-size bone defects do not spontaneously heal and therefore require surgical intervention to repair completely. As many drawbacks exist with traditional repair approaches, the field of bone tissue engineering - which combines biomaterials and cells - has emerged to provide an alternative to these approaches. The process of natural bone repair occurs due to the recruitment of bone cells to the defect site combined with new blood vessel formation at the same time. The cells found at a bone defect site include mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) whose recruitment provides the building blocks necessary to re-build the injured bone tissue thus making these an ideal cell source for investigation in this study. Traditional bone tissue engineering research has focused on the development of 3D scaffold biomaterials to enhance tissue repair and, more recently, in pioneering work by the applicants, scaffolds have been shown to have potential for delivery of gene therapeutics such as plasmid DNA (pDNA) and molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) in a controlled manner and over a specified timeframe. This project will use a 3D collagen-nanohydroxyapatite scaffold made of bone's natural components, and developed by the applicants specifically for bone repair, and activate it for gene (pDNA and/or miRNA) delivery in order to enhance both blood vessel and bone formation. This study will assess the potential of combining a number of carriers, including novel materials from the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre and University of Nottingham to enhance therapeutic delivery. A significant focus of the project will be on commercialisation of the technologies, identification of the regulatory landscape and optimal route to the market so as to benefit patients as quickly as possible.


Award Date
29 June 2017
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Fergal O'Brien
Host Institution
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Investigator Led Projects