Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Medical students visit from Saudi Arabia

For the fourth year, a group of students from the College of Medicine at Al Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Saudi Arabia visited the Institute for Science & Technology in Medicine (ISTM) during August 2014.

Mr Mark Smith, Dr Paul Roach, Professor Andy Garner & other representatives from Keele University welcome the Saudi students.

The fourteen students and their tutor learnt about the latest research carried out at ISTM and the University Hospital of North Midlands (UHNM), including plenty of hands-on experience learning techniques and how to use the latest scientific equipment. Lectures included a visit to the Keele Active Virtual Environment (KAVE) and Anatomy Suite, and tours of UHNM departments such as the Cancer Centre and Obs & Gynae which host significant research projects involving UHNM patients. The students were also able to experience British culture with a traditional fish and chip dinner at the home of Mark Smith, ISTM's Research Manager.

The academic programme has been developed and managed by Dr Paul Roach, and this year the students were accompanied by Dr Waleed Al-Shaqha, Vice Dean for Research at Al Imam University. Dr Al-Shaqha took the opportunity to meet Professor Andy Garner, Dean of Health, and other key staff in the University and UHNM to discuss future collaborations, undergraduate medical student placements and research degrees.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Conference roundup 2014

TERMIS-Europe presents one of the major international conferences in the field of tissue engineering. As such, it is always a fascinating forum to share ideas and connect with researchers across a multitude of disciplines.

This year saw a large delegation from Keele, presenting our recent work on nanoparticle-based approaches for regenerative medicine, biomaterials and stem cell therapies for bone and cartilage engineering.

Many of the themes this year focussed on translation, with impressive keynote lectures on the state of the art in applying laboratory approaches to treating patients in the clinic.

As always, the TERMIS social programme was spectacular – featuring an after-hours tour of Genoa aquarium, cocktails, an array of fresh seafood and a variety of Renaissance palaces.

Next year the TERMIS world congress will take place in Boston and we hope to have a similarly large delegation from Keele, to share our research in regenerative medicine and connect with YOU – colleagues and friends from around the world.

We also tour other conferences throughout the year where you can see us present. Please feel free to come and say hello if you see our presentations or posters!

Britain Israel
Research and Academic Exchange Partnership
25-26 March

2-4 June

Tissue Engineering &
Regenerative Medicine International
Society (Europe)
Genoa, Italy
10-13 June

Scientific & Clinical
Applications of Magnetic Carriers
Dresden, Germany
10-14 June

Arthritis Research UK
(Biomechanics and Bioengineering)
19 June

Bone Research Society
25-26 June

Tissue & Cell Engineering Society
2-4 July

Krakow, Poland
17-22 August

European Society for Biomaterials
31 August – 3 September

Future Investigators in
Regenerative Medicine
Girona, Spain
8-11 September

European Materials
Research Society
Warsaw, Poland
15-19 September

Mercia Stem Cell Alliance
(and Young
Investigators meeting)
18-19 September

Tissue Engineering
& Regenerative Medicine International Society
Daegu, Rep. Korea
24-27 September

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Bioreactors and Growth Environments for Tissue Engineering Training Course

This 3-day interactive training course is targeted at industry and academia at postgraduate levels. Delegates are provided with a comprehensive understanding of the use of Bioreactors in Tissue Engineering. The course focuses on bioreactors and growth environments for tissue engineering, covering bone, cartilage and connective tissue engineering.

This workshop will include:

· Bioreactor design for complex tissues 
· Mechanical Bioreactors—design & optimisation 
· QA/Growing cells for clinical 
· Building on-line monitoring into Bioreactors
· Practical sessions—Design a bioreactor / Parameter optimisation

Additional workshop features: 
· Hands on experience in practical break-out sessions 
· Direct interaction with opinion leaders in the field
· Industrial and academic demonstration of Bioreactors 

Monday 17th to Wednesday 19th November 2014 

Sustainability Hub, Keele University 

Organised by 
Prof Alicia J. El Haj & Dr Nicholas R. Forsyth 

from the 
Institute for Science & Technology in 
Medicine, Keele University 

Registration is now open. Please visit: 

Or contact 
Joseph Clarke
+44 (0) 1782 674998

FIRM 2014 Early Career Symposium Future Investigators of Regenerative Medicine

Future Investigators of Regenerative Medicine (FIRM) was established by four members of the Doctoral Training Centre in Regenerative Medicine seeking to create a forum for young researchers, to come together in a friendly and informal setting. This allows the creation of new networks early on in their careers that can lead to future worldwide collaborations, whilst also gaining invaluable experience presenting at an international conference. With over 70 attendees from 32 international institutions FIRM 2013 has already begun to build a large community of early career researchers with collaborative work starting from the moment the symposium finished.

FIRM symposium 2014 plans to be bigger and better than last year. Whilst keeping the best bits in; the networking, open discussions, quick fire poster presentations and oral presentation slots, they have also created new sessions in response to last year’s feedback, with more interactive debates and career development training workshops rounding off the FIRM experience. These training workshops will provide attendees with the knowledge and skills to further their personal development and gain experience in areas such as clinical delivery, imaging, communication and commercialisation.

This years title ‘Life Cycle of Cell Therapies’ is broken down into five interconnected sessions, Fundamental Biology, Biomaterials, Enabling Technology, Commercialisation and Clinical Delivery. In order to produce a viable cell therapy industry all these pieces need to work together, like cogs in a well oiled machine.
To enable this FIRM have secured a number of world renowned international keynote speakers purposely chosen to bring forward knowledge in every aspect of the life cycle of cell therapies.

Girona, Spain
8th—11th September 2014

Confirmed Speakers:
Dr Robert Preti
Progenitor Cell Therapy, USA
Prof Erik Shapiro
Michigan State University, USA
Prof Katja Schenke-Layland
Fraunhofer Institute, Germany
Dr Paolo De Coppi
Great Ormond Street Hospital, UK
Dr Alan Horner
Smith and Nephew, UK
Dr Jamie Cleaver
Key Skills Training for Scientists, UK
Dr Kei Mayamoto
Cambridge University, UK

Cost: £350
▪ Conference fee
▪ Delegate bag
▪ 3 nights accommodation
▪ All meals

Major funding boost EPSRC commit additional funding for Centre for Doctoral Training

In 2008 the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) realised the need to support capacity in the rapidly growing sector of regenerative medicine and so funded the Loughborough-Nottingham-Keele Centre for Doctoral Training (DTC) in 2010. Now, jointly funded by the EPSRC and Medical Research Council (MRC), the programme has been rebranded the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).
The CDT’s aim is to provide training to new professionals in the core scientific and translational skills needed to drive the regenerative medicine industry and with an intake of approximately 10 PhD studentships per year, it attracts a diverse cohort of chemical engineers, computer network engineers, physicists and chemists. It is this interdisciplinarity that underpins the centres vision to tackle the field of regenerative medicine, from different perspectives.

Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field, covering a wide range of therapies and technologies designed to re-establish function in damaged or diseased tissues, such as bone, nerves and skin. With our aging population the delivery of next generation healthcare is a government priority; addressing debilitating conditions such as heart and neurological diseases and arthritis.

The CDT has received a total government investment of over £500m and a further £450m from University and industry collaborations, which includes a recent £3.5million joint award by the EPSRC and the Medical Research Council (MRC). This funding has established a successful research community in the Midlands area and as such received significant interest across the private and public sector.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, said, “Our £500 million investment in Centres for Doctoral training will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, ensuring Britain leads the world in high-tech research and manufacturing.”

Keele University’s Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine (ISTM) is part of this research community and provides the clinical and translational arm to the CDT programmes; increasing focus on the clinical need and application of new technologies, positively impacting on the way regenerative therapies are delivered.

To date, the CDT has delivered six PhD cohorts trained in the core scientific and translational skills needed to deliver world-class research and serves as a flagship of research activity for the ISTM and Keele University.

UK-India Stem cell manufacturing alliance

The first stage in a three-part, nineteen month, multinational project to explore the control of expression patterns in embryonic stem cells in environmental conditions, has now been completed.

Laboratories from Keele University’s Institute of Science and Technology (ISTM), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and New Delhi (IIT-ND) are involved in the staff/student exchange project as part of a UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI).

The UKIERI funds activities aimed at establishing educational relationships between the UK and India; producing systemic changes in India and opportunities for professional development across various educational institutions.

ISTM has been involved in establishing a stem cell manufacturing unit for culturing cells and transplantation to patients at the Guy Hilton Research Centre at University Hospital North Staffordshire. This Unit links to the existing facility at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt (RJAH) Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry which has treated just under 500 patients and aims to provide cells for clinical trials. The Unit has been approved for establishing some industrially funded trials and is currently developing capacity for manufacturing other cells types such as embryonic stem cells as part of the UK-India initiative alongside our Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine.

Working together, the laboratories in Keele and IIT-ND have now completed the first stage of their research plan which was to generate a miRNA profile of human embryonic stem cells cultured in hypoxic conditions (2% O2), in comparison to ambient air (21% O2). This work has identified approximately 200 miRNA which are differentially regulated in hESC in an oxygen-dependent manner. Bioinformatic and functional analysis of these miRNA is currently underway and a report is being prepared for publication and international dissemination.

Global healthcare communities: East meets West

Hyanji Scaffold is a four year exchange scheme supported by the European Commission. Its aim is to nurture a European-Chinese collaboration across four internationally acclaimed biomedical research groups: ISTM, Pisa, Tsinghua and Sichuan University.

The alliance focuses on the development of new material chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmacy methods for cartridge and bone tissue engineering techniques, and in particular biosynthesis of biomaterials and targeted drug delivery. There is an expectation that the sharing of knowledge, skills and expertise will lead to the development of new healthcare treatments for bone and cartilage defects, for the European and Chinese industry.

To date, Keele University’s Institute of Science and Technology (ISTM) has sent two lecturers and six students to Tsinghua University: Professor Alicia El Haj (ISTM’s Director), Dr Nick Forsyth, Alex Lomas, Richard Webb, Ian Wimpenny, Tina Dale, Thomas Heathman, and Thomas Kwan.

Each student spent between a month and a year at Tsinghua and their goal was to develop a biologically generated polymer scaffold to be used in the treatment of damaged tendons. On their return, students spoke of the collaboration's success in terms of research but also on a personal level.

“I experienced what life would be like as a research student in China; the laboratories were well equipped, the professors are great and I’ve built lifelong friendships and collaborations with Chinese students and academic staff. I also acquired a taste for the Sichuan hotpot and ‘snow’ beer, the local brew!” said Richard, returning from a second 6 month placement at the West China School of Pharmacy, Sichuan University.

Richard and his fellow ISTM students continue to work on the development of new bone and cartilage defect treatments, as part of the European-Chinese collaboration, and it is hoped that this partnership of specialised institutions will continue long after the scheme closes.

Turning up the pressure on bone tissue engineering

Exercise is important for building strong bones, but it is an interesting question as to how bone cells sense these forces and modify the bone structure to cope with increased strain. It has been shown that one of the main ways that cells sense physical activity is through fluctuations in the pressure of the fluid inside the bone and cartilage.

Stress and strain during exercise cause pressure changes that are sensed by osteocytes – cells which live in small, interconnected spaces throughout the bone and act as ‘pressure sensors’ for monitoring bone activity. These then signal to stem cells in the marrow, stimulating them to turn into mature bone cells and replenishing the pool of active cells that are responsible for building bones and healing fractures.

Thus the extremes of intensive training allow athletes to build strength into their bones and compete to their maximum potential, whilst a lack of exercise causes a dramatic weakening of the skeleton. In fact, pressure is sensed by bone cells from an early age - even as the limb is forming in the foetus, a baby’s ‘kicking’ is thought to play a vital role in making sure that the bone and joints form normally by giving them a work-out whilst still in the womb.

At Keele, and in collaboration with Instron (TGT), we have developed a bioreactor which can artificially simulate these natural pressure changes and allow us to experiment on bones in the lab - culturing them in an environment which mimics natural exercise and then accurately measuring the effects on bone growth.

We are now using this bioreactor to look at various aspects of how dynamic pressure affects bone development, using whole (chick) organ cultures and both embryonic and adult bone marrow stem cells. Understanding the role of pressure as a stimulus for bone growth and repair has the potential to dramatically improve clinical treatments for hip and knee replacements, osteoporosis, arthritis and non-healing fractures, helping to translate basic research into advanced medical practice.

In this experiment, femurs from a developing chick foetus were cultured for two weeks in static conditions (top) or with an intermittent pressure (simulating walking) for 1 hour per day (bottom). We found that this significantly increased bone formation in the cortex (*stained red) and caused an increase in the production of collagen (the main organic structural component of bone). We also found that faster frequencies (i.e. faster walking) had the greatest effect on increasing bone density.

EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine is a high value field of healthcare with the potential to transform lives for the better. It covers a wide range of therapies designed to enable damaged, diseased or defective skin, bone and other tissues – and even perhaps organs – to work normally again. The regenerative medicine manufacturing sector seeks to translate these therapies to the clinic in sufficient quantity and in safe and cost effective ways to ensure the viability of the industry as a whole.

The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine is one of the few centres in the world providing academic and industrial translational research in regulated regenerative medicine manufacturing. The Centre is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The EPSRC Centre is a collaboration between Loughborough, Nottingham and Keele universities.

The EPSRC Centre:

  • Creates next generation platforms for manufacturing regenerative medicines

  • Tests and implements ideas in clinical and industrial settings

  • Informs business models, policy and public debate

The EPSRC Centre works to equip the industry with manufacturing tools, technologies and platforms by considering the supply chain from end to end. We utilise a systems approach to draw together the many processes involved in transferring the right therapies to the right patient at the right time.

Key research themes in the EPSRC Centre include manufacturing and automation, characterisation and control and 3D products and delivery. The EPSRC Centre is complemented by a PhD programme between the same three universities – the EPSRC-MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Regenerative Medicine – that will produce 100 PhD graduates by 2020.

The EPSRC Centre is developing a UK regenerative medicine manufacturing community through its national engagement strategy. Recent engagement activities have included holding the third annual regenerative medicine manufacturing summit for industrial collaborators, raising careers awareness among regenerative medicine early career researchers and leading a new schools programme engaging learners of ages 5-19 with the variety of science and engineering research underpinning the field of regenerative medicine.

Arthritis Research Centre for Tissue Engineering Partnership with RJAH Orthopaedic Hospital

Nearly two decades ago, The Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine’s (ISTM) Professor James Richardson set up a clinical service in the Keele partner hospital, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt (RJAH) Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, using tissue engineering to treat patients with damage to the cartilage which lines the surfaces of their knee called Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI). This has been a cornerstone of regenerative medicine and has been the basis for many additional laboratory research studies with scientists and clinicians funded from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Arthritis Research UK (ARUK). The unit has now treated over 450 patients successfully.

Two years ago the group, led by Sally Roberts, James Richardson and Alicia El Haj, became part of the ARUK Centre for Tissue Engineering, joining other scientists and surgeons from Cambridge, Newcastle, Aberdeen and York. There are a multitude of projects now being undertaken within this, all with the focus of developing better and more permanent ways of treating the arthritic knee.

These projects address questions such as:
▪ How do we identify the best cell types to use for therapy?
▪ Are some patients more suitable for cell therapy and regenerative medicine generally than others and if so, can we develop predictive tests to identify them?
▪ Is there a way to characterise the cells themselves and measure their ‘potency’ for repair or regeneration?
▪ What happens to the cells when they are implanted – do they remain forever and synthesise new cartilage or do they only do so for a short time and do they release agents which affect other cells?

Until now, the cartilage repair procedure, ACI, has used cells from the patient’s own cartilage, culturing them in the lab for approximately three weeks before implanting them back to the area of the joint which needs to be repaired.

Now a three year trial named Autologous Stem cells, Chondrocytes Or the Two (ASCOT) will compare autologous mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (from the patient’s bone marrow) with chondrocytes, or alternatively a combination of both cell types.

It has taken a long time for the RJAH and its associates to get this trial under way; approximately three years to prepare all the paperwork and licenses. Now the focus is on recruitment as those involved hope to recruit in excessive of 100 patients.

ISTM launch new magazine

ISTM is proud to announce the publication of the first edition of its new news magazine, Translate.  Articles from the first edition will be posted here in due course.  If you would like to order a paper copy of our magazine, please contact us.