Biomaterials and Stem Cell-Based Therapeutics
Lino Ferreira
Group Leader
Ph.  +351 239 853406
+351 231 419040
Fax  +351 239 853409
Design of novel biomaterials for stem cell differentiation and transplantation

Stem cells differentiate along different lineages in the context of complex three-dimensional (3D) tissue constructs, where the extracellular matrix (ECM) and different growth factors play an important role in this process. The 3D ECM provides structural support for higher level of tissue organization and remodeling. Recent data show significant differences in the differentiation profile of stem cells cultured in a 3D versus 2D system. We are designing biomaterials which provide several different types of information to stem cells, with the purpose of controlling their differentiation. In this platform we are developing or modifying natural or synthetic polymers and to characterize their physico-chemical and biological properties. The major goal of this research is to identify biomaterials that will improve the differentiation of stem cells in a specific cell lineage and to obtain fundamental knowledge regarding the effect of chemistry, mechanics and three-dimensional organization of the scaffold in terms of stem cell differentiation. Another area of interest in the group is to create 3D matrices (scaffolds) to improve the grafting and functionality of the delivered stem cells in vivo. Most cells delivered in vivo die in the first few days postimplantation or leak back out of the injection site. We are developing 3D matrices to improve cell retention and viability.
Endothelial-like cells isolated from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and cultured on matrigel form cord-like structures before (A) and after implantation in nude mice (B). Expression of endothelial marker CD31 (C) on hESC aggregates encapsulated in dextran-based hydrogels containing the cell-adhesion peptide RGD (D).
Biomaterials with antimicrobial properties

A major problem associated with the implantation of biomedical devices in the human body is the inherent risk of microbial infections. We are developing novel and more effective strategies to control antimicrobial infections by developing coating technologies to immobilize antimicrobial agents. Recently, we reported an antifungal material, termed amphogel, formed by a hydrogel and an antifungal agent-amphotericin B- physically adsorbed that was able to kill fungi within 2 h of contact and could be reused for at least 53 days without losing its effectiveness against Candida albicans (Zumbuhel et al., PNAS 2007).
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