Tissue Engineering Research Group

Group Overview

The Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) is focussed on the development of next-generation implants by combining nanotechnology and tissue engineering methods, with a particular focus on living, cardiovascular devices for the treatment of both paediatric and adult populations.

The TERG is currently based in the UCD Health Sciences Centre and focusses on the application of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine principles to the improved treatment of disease. The two major group research themes are as follows:

  • Vascular graft / heart valve prostheses
  • In vitro models of disease

More Information About UCD Tissue Engineering Research Group

The two major group research themes are summarised below.

  1. Vascular graft / heart valve prostheses. The major research focus of the group specifically targets the treatment of congenital cardiac defects and namely the development of vascular and heart valve prostheses to reconstruct such defects. The principal project within the group, funded by the National Children’s Research Centre, is a highly multidisciplinary study that aims to synthesise a novel, autologous elastogenic vascular graft that can be constructed entirely from materials isolated from the infant patient. The premise of this study is that autologous, or ‘self-made’, materials will remove the potential for graft rejection, and provide the infant patient with a living, elastic graft that can grow together with their surrounding body tissues, thereby eliminating the need for successive re-operations. The group has been working closely with Prof Stefan Jockenhoevel (RWTH Aachen, Germany) over the last number of years developing techniques to generate both living vascular grafts and heart valve prostheses based on a fibrin scaffold material. Fibrin can be isolated from a sample of patients’ blood, and used as a material on which to grow cells, which then transform the fibrin into a tissue-like structure. The current 4-year translational study will employ novel techniques to generate more stable, long-lasting vascular graft materials using specialised equipment, defined chemical supplementation, together with the patient’s own cells.
  2. In vitro models of disease. The second major research interest of the TERG is the application of tissue-engineered constructs as in vitro models of disease, primarily myxomatous mitral valve disease. While much work has been performed to look at diagnosis and treatment of this disease, efforts to better understand the cellular and molecular basis of this disease have been hampered by the lack of a suitable in vitro system. In a collaborative study with the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh and NUI, Galway, the TERG is developing an in vitro bioreactor system to determine the factors that may influence the onset and progression of canine and human myxomatous mitral valve disease.

In addition to a number of publications and presentations, the highlight of the group in 2012 was to secure substantial funding from the National Children’s Research Centre for paediatric vascular graft development.

Research Team

Dr Tom Flanagan
Lecturer

Associated Researchers

Ian Woods                                           
PhD Candidate

Sean Strauther                                        
MSc Candidate

Director Biography

Dr Flanagan is a graduate of Anatomy from NUI, Galway (2000) and was awarded a PhD (Anatomy) in 2005. He subsequently took up a post-doctoral position at the Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Helmholtz Institute for Biomedical Engineering at Aachen University in Germany, where he co-ordinated a project to develop autologous heart valve prostheses for surgical implantation. Dr Flanagan joined the School of Medicine & Medical Science in 2008 as Lecturer in Human Anatomy, and heads the Tissue Engineering research group at the School.