Applications for the 2019 edition of the INPhINIT PhD Program, sponsored by the "la Caixa" Foundation, are now open in 2 formats: INCOMING, until February 6, 2019; and RETAINING until February 27, 2019. It aims to attract young researchers of any nationality who wish to develop their doctoral thesis in Spanish and Portuguese territory. Click here for more info.
Francisco Moreira has just defended his PhD thesis in Bioengineering (MIT Portugal) at Instituto Superior Técnico, wednesday the 12th December 2018 (14:00 H, room PA3). During the last years, and under the supervision of Joaquim Cabral and Cláudia Lobato Silva from SCERG-iBB, Francisco focused on the establishment of a scalable three-dimensional dynamic culture for the expansion of adipose tissue-derived MSC under xeno-free conditions. The title of his thesis is "Scalable Platform for the Expansion of Human Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cells Under Dynamic Conditions”.
Marta Monteiro Silva Carvalho will be defending her PhD thesis in Bioengineering (Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine) at Instituto Superior Técnico, tuesday the 4th December 2018 (14:00 H, room PA3). During the last years, and under the supervision of Cláudia Lobato Silva from SCERG-iBB and Deepak Vashisth from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Marta focused on the development of biomimetic 3-D matrices for stem cell mediated bone formation, with a particular interest on evaluating the influence of non-collagenous proteins present in the bone matrix. The title of her thesis is "Stem Cell-mediated bone formation on biomimetic 3-D matrices”.
Raquel Medina dos Santos Cunha will be defending her PhD thesis in Bioengineering (MIT Portugal) at Instituto Superior Técnico, tuesday the 20th November 2018 (10:30 H, room PA3). During the last years, and under the supervision of Cláudia Lobato Silva from SCERG-iBB, Jeffrey Karp from Harvard Medical School and António Fiarresga from Hospital de Santa Marta, Raquel worked on the development of platforms for the production and characterisation of clinical grade stem cell-based therapies with enhanced regenerative potential. The title of her thesis is "Towards the development of potency assays and 3D inflammation models to evaluate the regenerative potential of Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cell (MSC) and MSC-derived products”.
Development of efficient bioprocesses for human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) is critical for their medical and biotechnological applications. Scalable expansion of hiPSC is often performed using polystyrene microcarriers, which have to be removed using a time-consuming separation step. At the Stem Cell Engineering Research Group, novel xeno-free dissolvable microcarriers were applied for the first time for the integrated expansion and harvesting of hiPSC. After expansion, microcarriers were dissolved inside the bioreactor, allowing the recovery of more than 90% of the cells, which represents a significantly higher cell yield when compared with microcarrier filtration (45%). These results represent a major improvement for the downstream processing of hiPSC. Find more on the paper on Biotechnology Journal.
Diogo Pinto will be defending his PhD thesis in Bioengineering (MIT Portugal) at Instituto Superior Técnico, thursday the 15th November 2018 (10:30 H, room PA3). During the last years, and under the supervision of Cláudia Lobato Silva from SCERG-iBB and António Fiarresga from Hospital de Santa Marta, Diogo worked on the development of a mesenchymal stem/stromal cells product derived from the umbilical cord matrix with enhanced therapeutic features for myocardial regeneration. The title of his thesis is "Towards the Development of a Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cell Product with Enhanced Therapeutic Features for Myocardial Infarction”.
Teresa Silva will be defending his PhD thesis in Bioengineering (Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine) at Instituto Superior Técnico, wednesday the 26th October 2018 (15:00 H, room PA3). During the last years, and under the supervision of Carmo Fonseca from IMM and Tiago Fernandes and Evguenia Bekman from SCERG-iBB, Teresa worked on the development of new models to study neurodegenerative diseases such as ataxias that are caused by dysfunction of the cerebellum. The title of her thesis is "Novel bioengineering strategies for modeling cerebellar ataxias”.
Diogo Silva will be defending his PhD thesis in Bioengineering (Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine) at Instituto Superior Técnico, wednesday the 17th October 2018 (9:00 H, room 4.41). During the last years, and under the supervision of Joaquim Cabral from SCERG-iBB and Manuel Abecasis from IPO, Diogo developed new Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) for various types of hematologic cancers and optimized existing CARs that are already in the clinic. The title of his thesis is "Engineering of T-Cells with Chimeric Antigen Receptors as a Therapy for Hematologic Cancers”.
Miriam Sousa will be defending her PhD thesis in Biotechnology and Biosciences at Instituto Superior Técnico, wednesday the 19th October 2018 (14:00 H, room PA3). During the last years, and under the supervision of Frederico Ferreira from SCERG-iBB, Miriam developed nanofiber scaffolds for the cultivation of neural stem cells. The title of her thesis is "Ex-Vivo Culture of Neural Stem Cells in Nanofiber Scaffolds: Cellular Organization and Dynamic Systems”.
The book "Bioreactors for Stem Cell Expansion and Differentiation", edited by Joaquim Cabral and Cláudia Lobato Silva from SCERG-iBB has just been released by CRC Press. In the book, an international team of investigators presents thought-provoking reviews of bioreactors for stem cell expansion and differentiation and provides cutting-edge information on different bioreactor systems. The authors offer novel insights into bioreactor-based culture systems specific for tissue engineering, including sophisticated and cost-effective manufacturing strategies geared to overcome technological shortcomings that currently preclude advances towards product commercialization.
Bone regeneration, following fracture, relies on autologous and allogenic bone grafts. However, majority of fracture population consists of older individuals with poor quality bone associated with loss and/or modification of matrix proteins critical for bone formation and mineralization. Allografts sufer from same limitations and carry the risk of delayed healing, infection, immune rejection and eventual fracture. Researchers from SCERG-iBB, working in collaboration with colleagues from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US, have applied a synergistic biomimetic strategy to develop matrices that rapidly form bone tissue. Collagen matrices, enhanced with osteocalcin and/or osteopontin, increased the rate and quantity of synthesized bone matrix by increasing mesenchymal stem/stromal (MSC) cell proliferation, accelerating osteogenic diferentiation and enhancing angiogenesis The work was published in Scientific Reports.
A low percentage of novel drug candidates succeed and reach the end of the drug discovery pipeline. Emerging technologies involving the production of organoids from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and the use of organ-on-a-chip devices are showing great promise for developing a more reliable, rapid, and cost-effective drug discovery process. A review by a group of researchers from SCERG, published in Bioengineering, addresses the current progress and challenges related to the process of obtaining organoids from hPSCs, as well as ways to create devices that will allow a precise examination of the in vitro effects generated by drug candidates in different organ systems. This review has been selected as the cover story for the September 2018 issue of Bioengineering.
Ioannis Papantoniou will be giving a talk entitled "Tissue by Design: Bioprocess-pipelines for the production of clinically relevant skeletal living implants", Wednesday the 12th september at 11:00 h in room 1.38 of the IST Tagus Park campus. In his talk, Ioannis will provide an overview of the strategy that his group is developing in order to tackle major challenges in Tissue Engineering, including the ability to control complexity within 3D engineered constructs, diffusion limitations and the lack of control of the environment. Ioannis is a Chemical Engineer by training (U Patras, Greece) and holds a PhD from University College London. He is currently ATMP Research coordinator, within Prometheus - the KU Leuven division of skeletal tissue Engineering.
The successful use of Human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSC) for disease modelling, drug discovery and, ultimately, for regenerative therapies depends on the development of robust bioprocesses capable of generating large numbers of hiPSC and derivatives. SCERG-iBB researchers developed a bioprocess for the scalable generation of hiPSC in a microcarrier-based system using, for the first time, single-use Vertical-Wheel bioreactors. hiPSC culture was performed in working volumes up to 300 mL, maintaining the pluripotency and genomic integrity of the cells, providing an important tool for the successful manufacturing of hiPSC-based products. The work was published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology.
The project "EXOpro: Development of a scalable manufacturing process for therapeutic human mesenchymal stem/stromal cell-derived exosomes" has been recommended for funding by FCT. The goal of EXOpro is to develop a fully controlled manufacturing process for the production and purification of an effective, safe and fully characterized MSC-derived exosome-based product. Overall, the success of this project is expected to contribute to the development of novel cell-free strategies for Regenerative Medicine settings. The project, which falls within the scientific area of Chemical Engineering, is headed by Ana Fernandes from SCERG-iBB and Ana Azevedo from BERG-iBB and involves a collaboration with the University of São Paulo.
Eduardo Silva will be giving a seminar entitled "Biomaterial Systems for Engineering New Vascular Networks", Tuesday the 26th June at 11h in room 1.38, Taguspark. Eduardo Silva is an Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the University California, Davis. He received his degree in Metallurgical and Materials Science Engineering from University of Porto, and he holds a Ph.D. in Biomedicine from the Gulbenkian PhD Programme, with work performed at Harvard University. His research long-term goal is to engineer novel polymer based vehicles for controlled delivery of cells, drugs and/or genes in the context of vascularizing ischemic tissues.
The project "CardioWheel: Upscaling the Production of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiomyocytes using Vertical-Wheel Bioreactors" has been recommended for funding by FCT (2017 Call for SR&TD Project Grants). The goal of CardioWheel is the application of bioreactor technology for human Pluripotent Stem Cell expansion and cardiomyocyte differentiation in a single process, culturing cells in suspension in the novel single-use Vertical-Wheel Bioreactors. These bioreactors will be characterized using computational fluid dynamics and this knowledge will be used to scale up the culture. The generated cells will be tested for functional and pharmacological activity to demonstrate their applicability in drug discovery and regenerative medicine. The project, which falls within the scientific area of Chemical Engineering, is headed by Carlos Rodrigues and Joaquim Cabral from SCERG-iBB.
The project "Mini-Hearts: Organoid Engineering for Production of 3D Cardiovascular Microtissues from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells for Cardiotoxicity" has been recommended for funding by FCT (2017 Call for SR&TD Project Grants). The goal of "Mini-Hearts is to develop an innovative model of cardiovascular tissue from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) for drug screening, toxicology assays, disease modeling and potentially for Regenerative Medicine applications. The work will explore the new paradigm of organoid engineering by targeting the simultaneous differentiation of hiPSCs into all the cell types of the human myocardium. This will potentially allow the reproduction of the heterogeneity, complexity, maturity and functionality of cardiovascular tissue. The project, which falls within the scientific area of Medical Engineering, is headed by Margarida Diogo from SCERG-iBB.
The ability to differentiate neural progenitors (NP) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) provides an opportunity to develop new applications for cellular therapy, disease modelling and drug screening. SCERG-iBB researchers developed a platform that can be applied towards the study of the effect of neurotoxic molecules that impair normal embryonic development, such as the antiepileptic drug valproic acid (VPA). It was verified that exposure to VPA led to a prevalence of NP structures over neuronal differentiation, confirmed by analysis of the expression of neural cell adhesion molecule, and neural rosette number and morphology. This methodology can potentially complement current toxicity tests for the detection of teratogenic compounds that can interfere with normal embryonic development. The work was published in Toxicology Letters.
Cerebellar ataxias are characterized by progressive neurodegeneration of the cerebellum. Current knowledge about the disease is based on postmortem studies and animal models that do not fully recapitulate the features of human ataxias. The development of disease models is thus an important unmet medical need. The goal of the project "CEREBEX", which has recently been approved for funding by PORLisboa, is to generate 3D cultures of mature cerebellar neurons to investigate ataxia mechanisms and therapeutic strategies. The project, which falls within the scientific area of Medical Biotechnology, is headed by Joaquim Cabral from SCERG-iBB and involves the collaboration with the Institute for Molecular Medicine. The proposal "CEREBEX - Generation of gene-edited cerebellar organoids for ataxia research" was submitted in the context of the 2017 Call for SR&TD Project Grants.
Cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs) have an enormous potential for in vitro modeling of cardiac diseases and for testing the effect and toxicity of new drugs. However, when compared to adult CMs, hiPSC-CMs are very immature, exhibiting low structural development and functionality. SCERG-iBB researchers developed a novel methodological framework to quantify structural aspects of hiPSC-CMs during long-term culture. hiPSC-CMs showed significant progression in several structural characteristics namely cardiomyocyte fiber density and length. Importantly, this methodology contributes to set new metrics to develop applications for drug screening and disease modeling for hiPSC-CMs. The research has been published on Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.
Márcia Andreia Faria da Mata has defended her Ph D thesis in Biotechnology and Biosciences at Instituto Superior Técnico on the 9th May 2018. During the last years, and under the supervision of Cláudia Lobato Silva from SCERG-iBB and Prof. Marco Costa from Case Western Reserve University, Márcia has investigated how stem cell engineering can contribute to the development of angiogenic cell therapies for the management of ischemia. The title of her thesis is "Stem Cell Engineering Approaches Towards Angiogenic Cell Therapy for Ischemic Diseases”.
Tânia Baltazar, PhD student in Bioengineering - Cell Therapies and Regeneratice Medicine, was awarded the Wake Forest Institue for Regenerative Medicine Young Investigator Award. This prize is granted for extraordinary developments by members of this society in initial phases of a carrer in the area of Regenerative Medicine.