Improving in vitro tissue models through bioactive materials

Year of award: 2022


  • Dr Christopher Spicer

    University of York, United Kingdom

Project summary

In vitro tissue models are a workhorse of biomedical research, providing invaluable tools to study disease and screen new treatments. However, it remains difficult to produce effective models that can accurately recreate native tissue biology. This leads to models with poor predictive power and the potential to generate misleading insight, a continued prevalence of animal models, and a severe obstacle to biomedical progress. In this research programme, we will address the urgent need for innovative biomaterials able to scaffold the growth of effective models via enhanced biochemical signalling complexity. This will be achieved through a chemistry-driven approach, developing: 1) Materials able to sequentially enrich key bioactive proteins at relevant stages of tissue development; 2) Strategies to reversibly functionalise materials with biochemical signalling ligands, providing precise spatiotemporal control over signalling cascades; 3) Novel cyclic and bicyclic peptides able to potently mimic the signalling activity of high cost, low stability growth factors and cytokines. The highly modular platforms developed within this programme will enable a step-change in our ability to engineer accurate in vitro models of healthy and diseased tissues, accelerating biomedical research and the development of clinically-relevant technologies.