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Materials Engineering & Material-Tissue Interactions

Division C - Department of Engineering

The group is headed by Dr Athina E Markaki. Particular research interests within the group include fibre networks and open-cell scaffolds for tissue engineering, brain cancer cell migration, vascularisation of ECM-like hydrogel materials, computational modelling of 3D vascular networks, 3D architecture characterisation, mechanical characterisation and material–tissue interactions.

A major focus of our research is directed towards: (a) highly porous “fibre network materials” (bonded assemblies of fibres) and specifically on the various inter-relationships between network/scaffold architecture, mechanical properties and cell responses (proliferation, differentiation, mineralisation, adhesion). Fibre network materials have potential for use as actuators (devices in which controlled physical motion or force is triggered by an external signal or stimulus). (b) Vascular networks for tissue engineering. A critical obstacle for creating tissue/organs with clinically relevant dimensions is the formation of a three-dimensional, hierarchical, and perfusable vasculature. In our group, we use ECM-like hydrogel materials with various channel-forming techniques to create vascularized tissue, working towards solutions to this interdisciplinary problem. Understanding the spatial aspects of vascularization is important and highly porous scaffolds are employed for tailoring vessel formation. (c) Brain cancer cell mechanobiology. The work is concerned with glioblastoma (GBM). It combines engineering and cell biology to develop deeper insight into the relationship between cell adhesion and tumor’s invasive capacity. Our cell culture studies involve human umbilical vein endothelial cells, human osteoblasts, human dermal adult fibroblasts, human mesenchymal stem cells and glioblastoma cell lines.