In the Nisbet lab we conduct applied research that sits at the interface between biology and nanotechnology, developing biomaterials to explore both fundamental biological processes and new applications in regenerative medicine. Our research spans broad applications for biomaterials including cell transplantation, organs on a chip, drug delivery and screening, gene therapy, advanced biocompatible and antimicrobial coatings. Such capabilities allow us to tackle several biological problems including neurodegenerative diseases, bone tissue engineering, cancer and infection.
A number of injuries, including stroke, result in tissue loss. Consequently promoting repair will require restoration of tissue structure, replacement cells and a supportive environment to promote integration of these new cells. This study will engineer and develop novel scaffolds that can replace tissue whilst additionally providing physical and chemical support for newly implanted stem cells. This work will be conducted in an animal model of stroke.
Several diseases, including Parkinson’s disease (PD), result in dementia. Currently, pharmacological therapy is the only treatment for PD dementia, which only offers symptomatic relief with diminished efficacy. Therefore, there is a need to develop new strategies that prevent or slow the onset of dementia. This study will utilize nanoscaffolds that facilitate the controlled delivery of therapeutic proteins to prevent or slow the death of neurons associated with dementia in PD patients.
We will employ peptide inspired hydrogel nanoscaffolds that can be injected into a brain lesion as a single injection to provide chemical and physical support for the surrounding cells. We will utilize various modifications to these materials to reprogram inflammatory cells into neurons, whilst also promoting the survival, maintenance and growth of existing neurons to encourage repair.
If stem cell transplantation is to be useful to repair brain injury, advancement must be made to improve the delivery, survival and differentiation of transplanted cells so that they can sufficiently integrate into the host brain. Here, self-assembling peptides will be developed to provide physical and biochemical support for stem cells and neurones in cell culture (which may be useful for drug discovery) and following transplantation into the injured brain.
An inflammatory process, designed to clean up cell debris and maintain tissue integrity following brain insult, also results in an astrocytic scar that biochemically impedes nerve repair. After 8 weeks astrocytes switch to become supportive, however once a scar is formed repair is permanently inhibited. Here, we will test the ability of biomaterials to optimise the timing of the necessary inflammatory phase, to encourage repair by converting astrocytes to their tropic phase more rapidly.