Research scope

Title of the programme: Soft Tissue Engineering & Mechanobiology

Sub-programmes: Tissue Engineering, Tissue Mechanics

Programme leaders: Frank P.T. Baaijens, prof.dr. Carlijn V.C. Bouten.

Starting date: 2000                       

Research Area and Mission

Living tissues show an intriguing, active response to mechanical loading. Not only is the intrinsic mechanical response complicated, the ability of living tissues to adapt to mechanical loading by changing their structure and composition is fascinating. A fundamental understanding of these phenomena from molecule to man, through a combination of experimentation and computational modelling, is of crucial importance for many biomedical applications. Research is centered on two related topics.

Tissue engineering. We focus on the engineering of load bearing cardiovascular tissues, aimed at either the replacement of diseased or malformed tissues, or the development of well-defined in-vitro model systems of tissue regeneration and human disease. Organs of interest are heart valves, small diameter arteries and cardiac muscle. Research concentrates on the understanding of the impact of cell-environmental stimuli (mechanical, electrical and biochemical) on signaling and function of (stem)cells, and the tissue forming potential by these cells. The results are used to design and evaluate novel approaches for in-situ tissue regeneration, including the design of cellular niches with biomaterials that guide ultimate tissue composition, organization and mechanical properties.

Soft tissue biomechanics. This line of research is aimed at understanding the influence of mechanical loading on damage and adaptation of soft tissues. Next to cardiovascular tissues, the key application area is the investigation of the aetiology of pressure ulcers, with the ultimate goal to identify risk parameters and, in particular, early markers of tissue damage. These markers can be used in biosensors or as leads for bio-molecular imaging. A second research line is focused on the mechanical properties of the top layers of the skin, both for personal care applications as well as for transepidermal drug delivery with microneedles and jets.

The mission of the group is to conduct multi-disciplinary research on the biomechanics and mechanobiology of soft biological tissues, the engineering of living, load-bearing cardiovascular tissues, and to provide a stimulating educational environment for graduate and post-graduate students. Special emphasis is given to the integration of computational modeling with molecular and cell biological concepts