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Current research funding in the Division of Bioengineering

Division of Bioengineering

Research Projects

The following are current externally funded research projects taking place within the Division of Bioengineering at Queen Mary University of London. (The funding values represents the QMUL portion in multi centre grants)

Tomo-SAXS: Imaging full-field molecular-to-macroscale biophysics of fibrous tissues

Principal Investigator: Himadri GUPTA
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-01-2021  /  End: 30-06-2024
Amount: £451556

The regulation of mechanosensing in healthy and atherosclerotic VSMC
The regulation of mechanosensing in healthy and atherosclerotic VSMC

Principal Investigator: Thomas ISKRATSCH
Funding source: BHF British Heart Foundation
Start: 01-12-2020  /  End: 30-11-2023
Amount: £238021

Vascular smooth muscle cellsplay a central role in the onset and progression of many cardiovascular diseases, from atherosclerosis to vascular injury, where their migration, matrix secretion, or degradation functions are deregulated. Here we are investigating how the phenotypic switch is regulated through physical/mechanical stimuli.

A Biophysical Model of Gum Reintegration on enamel

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: GSK GlaxoSmithKline UK Ltd
Start: 01-10-2019  /  End: 30-09-2023
Amount: £32000

An Emulate microfluidic organ-chip
Organ-on-a-chip Centre of Excellence

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Hazel SCREEN and Clare THOMPSON
Funding source: Emulate Inc.
Start: 20-08-2019  /  End: 19-09-2023
Amount: £525375

The QM-Emulate Organs-on-Chips Centre provides access to Emulate’s Organs-on-Chips technology to enable researchers to develop organ models of their design to expedite their experiments. Expert staff are on hand to support with training and use of the platform as well as pushing forward new organ-on-a-chip research projects led by Knight and Screen. The Centre also provides opportunities for collaboration with Emulate and support for commercialisation and translational impact. The centre is part of the new Centre for Predictive in vitro Models (CPM). Visit the web site to see full details of this and the new Emulate centre:

Diagram showing omental metastasis in high grade serous ovarian cancer
Targeting the innate immune system in high grade serous ovarian cancer

Principal Investigator: Fran Balkwill
Co-investigator(s): Olive Pearce, Daniellea Loessner, Michel Lockley, R Manchanda, Quezada S and Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: CRUK
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 01-09-2023
Amount: £2028756

This 5-year CRUK Programme Grant is led by Prof Fran Balkwill from Barts Cancer Institute with a multidisciplinary team of co-investigators including Prof Martin Knight representing cancer bioengineering and mechanobiology.

Bottom up structuring of liquids without external fields or molds.
Manufacturing of anisotropic nano and micro- particles.
Molecular Manufacturing of Macroscopic Objects - fellowship Stoyan Smoukov

Principal Investigator: Stoyan SMOUKOV
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2023
Amount: £1180624

This interdisciplinary proposal proposes a molecular basis for Manufacturing for the Future,[a1] to grow many types of particles in a nature-inspired way. It offers scalability, near-full utilization of the material, and the ability to carry out transformations at near ambient conditions. Manufacturing in nature spans the scales from intricate ...

Cells growing at the surface of oil droplets
Engineered Protein Nanosheets at Liquid-Liquid Interfaces for Stem Cell Expansion, Sorting and Tissue Engineering

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2023
Amount: £2011161

ProLiCell will design the biochemical and mechanical properties of extracellular matrix (ECM) protein nanosheets that can sustain the formation of adhesion protein complexes and support cell proliferation and culture on materials with very weak bulk mechanical properties (liquids).

MICA: Organ-on-a-chip models for safety testing of regenerative medicine products
MICA: Organ-on-a-chip models for safety testing of regenerative medicine products

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: MRC Medical Research Council
Start: 24-08-2020  /  End: 23-08-2023
Amount: £504557

We are building novel organ-on-a-chip models of our musculoskeletal tissues, to learn more about disease processes and how this might be managed with regenerative medicine approaches

Proposed Emulate bone metastasis organ-chip
Organ-on-a-chip model of breast cancer bone metastases

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Oliver PEARCE
Funding source: CR-UK Cancer Research UK
Start: 01-12-2020  /  End: 31-05-2023
Amount: £268711

Background A common site for invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC) metastasis is bone, affecting about 70% of patients. Once metastasis to bone has occurred the five-year survival rate drops from 99% to 29%.  How breast cancer metastasises to bone is poorly understood, partly because of the lack of appropriate models. Organ-on-a-chip technology is …

UKRMP2 Acellular / Smart Materials

Principal Investigator: Alvaro MATA
Funding source: MRC Medical Research Council
Start: 06-04-2018  /  End: 15-04-2023
Amount: £40983

Graphene layer (Getty Image)
Graphene Flagship Core Project 3

Principal Investigator: James BUSFIELD
Co-investigator(s): Nick DUGGAN, Yang HAO, Emiliano BILOTTI, Dimitrios PAPAGEORGIOU, Wei TAN, Colin CRICK, Han ZHANG, Himadri GUPTA and Nicola PUGNO
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-04-2020  /  End: 31-03-2023
Amount: £376501

This grant will cofund the establishing of a mini-CDT with 5 PhD studentships in Graphene materials at QMUL.

EPSRC Core Equipment 2020

Principal Investigator: Wen WANG
Co-investigator(s): Ketao ZHANG, Matteo PALMA and Ildar FARKHATDINOV
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-11-2020  /  End: 30-04-2022
Amount: £497496

primary cilia - confocal image
Drug repurposing for treatment of cilia-related pathologies

Principal Investigator: Martin KNIGHT
Co-investigator(s): Cleo Bishop and Dagan Jenkins
Funding source: Queen Mary Innovations
Start: 29-09-2020  /  End: 01-03-2022
Amount: £50000

This project funded by Queen Mary Innovations, will identify compounds for the treatment of a rare genetic disease, Jeune Syndrome, that disrupts skeletal formation associated with dysregulation of primary cilia.

Newton International Fellowship 2019: Dynamics of microcapsules in inertial two-phase flows

Principal Investigator: Wen WANG
Co-investigator(s): Yi SUI
Funding source: Royal Society
Start: 01-03-2020  /  End: 28-02-2022
Amount: £103316

The dynamics of microcapsules in fast liquid-gas flows (i.e., inertial regime) is a fundamental problem that lies in the heart of numerous important applications, such as fast particle/cell sorting, encapsulation, and three-dimensional (3D) cell printing. This project will developed numerical simulation tools and fundamental understanding of the capsule and the two-phase fluid dynamics in inertial flow regimes.

Newton Mobility Grant-Prof B Garipcan: Directing fibre orientation in self-assembling peptide/polymer hydrogels via thermal manipulation

Principal Investigator: Helena AZEVEDO
Funding source: Royal Society
Start: 14-12-2020  /  End: 13-12-2021
Amount: £3000

Light4Sight - Light-activated carriers for the controlled delivery of therapeutic peptides in posterior segment eye diseases

Principal Investigator: Helena AZEVEDO
Co-investigator(s): Yaqi LYU
Funding source: EU Commission - Horizon 2020
Start: 01-11-2019  /  End: 31-10-2021
Amount: £179947

The growth of the ophthalmic drug market is primarily driven by an increasing aged population suffering from age- and lifestyle-related diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, among others. These diseases cause moderate or complete vision loss, resulting in significant reduction in quality of life. Consequently, innovative approaches for the effective delivery of biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of chronic intraocular diseases are required. Currently, intravitreal injection of drugs is the most acceptable and effective method to treat vitreoretinal diseases. By placing the drug in the posterior eye, it evades the ocular barriers common in topical and systemic delivery, allowing higher drug doses to reach the target site. However, treatments require frequent injections to maintain adequate intraocular concentration, which are invasive, increase the risk of adverse effects and pose significant treatment burden on patients and healthcare providers. Thus, alternative ways to deliver these drugs that require less frequent administration need to be developed. Light4Sight aims to develop a novel delivery platform consisting of self-assembling nanocarriers incorporating therapeutic peptides and suspended within a light-sensitive supramolecular hydrogel. The hydrogel can be injected in the vitreous and release of nanocarriers be activated through the irradiation of visible light. This approach provides several benefits: 1) minimizes the use of repeated injections reducing treatment burden; 2) reduces burst release of the nanocarriers avoiding potential dose related toxicity; 3) on-demand release to match patient needs; 4) allows high drug loading for longterm therapy; 5) protects peptide drugs from rapid clearance in the vitreous increasing their half-life.

Hyaluronic Acid in the rat Achilles tendon
Modulating tendon micromechanics for injury prevention or management

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Funding source: EPSRC & TRB Chemedica
Start: 02-10-2017  /  End: 01-10-2021
Amount: £140000

We are working with TRB Chemedica to understand how bio-lubricants may modulate local tendon mechanics and help manage or prevent tendon injury

Multiscale nuclear mechanobiology within the skin: from biophysical cues to epigenetic effects

Principal Investigator: Núria GAVARA
Co-investigator(s): John Connelly
Funding source: BBSRC
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 30-09-2021
Amount: £469683

The overall objective of the proposed project is to understand how forces are transmitted from the external environment to the nucleus and to determine the subsequent effects on nuclear structure, gene expression, and cell function within the epidermis of the skin. We will use advanced biophysical and imaging techniques to apply forces to single cells, and systems biology methodologies to analyse the changes in DNA structure and gene expression. In addition, we will test the role of internal cellular structures, such as the cytoskeleton, to gain mechanistic insight into these processes. Finally, we will investigate the influence of nuclear mechano-sensing in more complex 3D models of human skin. This is a collaboration with Dr John Connelly (PI)

Cardiomyocyte on PDMS nanopillar
Investigating the cardiomyocyte rigidity sensing mechanism with micro patterned surfaces and nanopil

Principal Investigator: Thomas ISKRATSCH
Funding source: BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2021
Amount: £490545

The composition and the stiffness of the cardiac extracellular matrix change during development or in heart disease. Cardiomyocytes and their progenitors sense these changes, which decides over Cardiomyocyte fate. Our preliminary data suggested a cardiomyocyte specific rigidity sensing mechanism which we will investigate here in detail.

EPSRC Core Equipment Call

Principal Investigator: Wen WANG
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT, CLIVE PARINI and ISAAC ABRAHAMS
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 13-02-2020  /  End: 12-08-2021
Amount: £125000

Fibrillar level mechanisms underlying transient change in pre-strain in cartilage: Under loading, loss of water molecules and structural collapse in the proteoglycan network lead a transient reduction of pre-strain (reduction in D-period) in the collagen
The mechanics of the collagen fibrillar network in ageing cartilage

Principal Investigator: Himadri GUPTA
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: B.B.S.R.C.
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 31-07-2021
Amount: £369875

We seek to understand how age-related changes in articular cartilage link to alterations in its nanoscale mechanics – and eventually to joint breakdown. We use high-brilliance synchrotron X-ray scattering to track fibrillar deformation dynamics in the matrix (hydrated proteoglycans restrained by collagen fibrils), combined with proteomics to assess compositional changes.

Organ-on-a-Chip Technologies Network
Organ-on-a-Chip Technologies Network

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Co-investigator(s): Martin KNIGHT
Funding source: MRC Medical Research Council
Start: 01-08-2018  /  End: 31-07-2021
Amount: £479339

We are excited to host the UKRI Technology Touching Life funded Organ-on-a-Chip Network out of QMUL. The network aims to bring together the vibrant, multidisciplinary UK research community interested in developing and using organ-on-a-chip models and support the on going exciting research activity in this field.

Translating Vasculature-on-a-Chips with a Nephrotoxicity Model

Principal Investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source: NC3Rs National Center for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research
Start: 01-07-2019  /  End: 30-06-2021
Amount: £49665

The instrument will combine two electrochemical imaging techniques which measure cell responses apically and basally.
Combined LAPS and SICM for multimodal live cell imaging

Principal Investigator: Steffi KRAUSE
Co-investigator(s): Wen WANG
Funding source: EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Start: 01-06-2018  /  End: 31-05-2021
Amount: £571839

A novel instrument will be developed that will revolutionise the ability to monitor cellular processes and cell communication in polarised cells by simultaneously imaging cells apically and basally. This will provide information about apical cell morphology and basal ion concentrations and electrical signals such as cell surface charge and impedance.

Inorganic nitrate treatment reduces inflammation in humans: assessment of mechanisms

Principal Investigator: Rob KRAMS
Funding source: BHF British Heart Foundation
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £206297

nitrite is a gas with a short half life which has shown to have a lot of beneficial properties like anti-oxidation . Here we explore the possibilities to be used as an anti=inflammatory agent.

Identifying the causes of age-related tendon injury

Principal Investigator: Hazel SCREEN
Funding source: DMT Dunhill Medical Trust, The
Start: 01-10-2018  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £190374

The primary goal of this project is to establish how and where in tendon tendinopathy originates, and to define how the age-related changes in tendon accelerate progression to tendinopathy. Our goal is to identify the specific IFM changes that drive increased injury risk with ageing. This is exciting as we can then continue, in future studies, to develop treatments specifically aimed at preventing, reversing, or mitigating the effects of these changes.

Development of mechanically enhanced osteoinductive synthetic bone graft substitutes
Development of mechanically enhanced osteoinductive synthetic bone graft substitutes

Principal Investigator: Karin HING
Funding source: Apatech Ltd
Start: 01-10-2017  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £87500

The aim of this project is to develop and test a series of bone graft substitutes with novel pore structures using a perfusion based bioreactor system with flow to waste and closed loop capabilities, that is also able to subject real bone graft substitute granules to direct mechanical perturbation. This system has been validated using human mesenchymal stem cells seeded on BGS with varied strut porosity and will be further optimised to enable screening of new structures.

Hole found in the fetal membranes ten weeks after fetoscopic intervention. The surgeon created a hole through the fetal membranes to fix the problem with the baby's placenta. However, the hole never healed leading to premature rupture of the fetal membran
Healing the fetal membranes after iatrogenic PPROM

Principal Investigator: Tina CHOWDHURY
Co-investigator(s): Anna David, Alvaro MATA, , David Becker and Jan Deprest
Funding source: Sparks medical children's charity and GOSH
Start: 02-04-2018  /  End: 31-03-2021
Amount: £148863

The integrity of the fetal membranes that surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy are vital for normal development. Once the fetal membranes have ruptured or are damaged, they fail to heal leaving a defect until the end of pregnancy. Bacteria may subsequently ascend from the vagina into the womb, causing infection both to the fetus and mother. This condition is called pre-term premature rupture of the foetal membrane (PPROM), and is a common cause of preterm birth. PPROM also complicates 30% of fetal surgeries that are increasingly being used to treat abnormalities in the unborn baby such as spine, diaphragmatic and placental defects. However, PPROM and subsequent preterm birth compromises the outcome of treated babies, reducing the clinical effectiveness of foetal surgery. There are no clinical solutions to improve healing of the foetal membrane after it ruptures.