Tissue Engineering . Cartilage Repair . Osteoarthritis . Chontrocytes . Stem Cells . Intervertebral Disc
Our goal is to repair articular and facial cartilage disorders and multi-tissue diseases such as osteoarthritis and degenerative disc pathology. We thus use several three-dimensional culture systems to investigate cellular responses and crosstalk under chemical and mechanical conditions mimicking healthy and disease situations.
Cartilage tissue engineering and regeneration (Collaboration with Group “Tissue Engineering”, Prof. I. Martin)
We are performing the following main research activities:
1. Use of nasal chondrocytes for cartilage repair
- Investigation of the molecular mechanisms regulating the regenerative potential of adult human nasal chondrocytes (coll. With Prof F. Rijli, FMI). Such understanding will enable us to develop protocols to engineer cartilaginous tissue with superior attributes as well as to identify novel quality controls to assess the potency of engineered cartilage grafts.
- Introduction of a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) bioreactor-based engineering process for nasal chondrocytes-based cartilage grafts.
2. Research towards the development of therapies for osteoarthritis
- Assessment of the molecular interaction of osteoarthritic chondrocytes with subchondral bone cells, with or without inflammations and loading, in order to investigate mechanisms of disease initiation, and to derive information on possible targets preventing disease progression (collab. with Prof M. Rasponi, Politecnico of Milano and Prof M. Ehrbar, University of Zürich)
- Investigation on the regenerative capacities of chondrocytes and chondro-progenitor cells in response to bioactive molecules modulating signalling pathways abnormally activated in osteoarthritis (i.e., BMP and Wnt) (collab with Prof S Ghosh, IIT Delhi)
Regeneration of intervertebral disc (Collaboration with Group “Tissue Engineering”, Prof. I. Martin)
- Development of minimally-invasive cell-based therapy for discogenic low back pain, with the capacity to repair patient’s intervertebral disc (IVD) in a personalized manner (collab. Prof S. Schären Spine Surgery, University-Hospital Basel). Using micro- and macroscale 3D models, we investigate mechanisms underlying interactions between IVD tissue and therapeutic cells (namely nasal chondrocytes) and apply these findings to improve cellular resistance to harsh microenvironment typically present in degenerated IVD.
- Exploitation of experimental gene therapy techniques (e.g. CRISPR/dCas9) to increase the performance of therapeutic cells (especially nasal chondrocytes) in degenerated tissue, specifically by targeting their metabolic and inflammation responses.