Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Welcome to the Tissue Engineering Research Group

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Tissue Engineering Research Group 2014
                                        TERG, May 2014


The RCSI Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) is a large multidisciplinary research group focused on the development of cell and advanced biomaterial-based strategies for the repair and regeneration of bone, cartilage, cardiovascular, ocular, respiratory and neural tissues. In addition to the Department of Anatomy, it works closely with the School of Pharmacy and Molecular & Cellular Therapeutics (MCT) Department in RCSI and the Centre for Bioengineering in Trinity College Dublin (TCBE).  It is also part of the €58million Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre which is focused on developing advanced next generation materials and medical devices in partnership with industry. 

TERG Research 

The TERG carries out a diverse range of research in collaboration with numerous academic partners including the Regenerative Medicine Institute, REMEDI, based at NUI Galway, the Trinity Cente for Bioengineering, TCBE, based at TCD, as well as internally with the School of Pharmacy and the department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics. In addition to our academic collaborators we are proud to have numerous clinical collaborators in specialties including orthopaedics, otolaryngology, cardiovascular medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine.

Fluorescent Cells
MicroCT Scaffold Reconstruction
Fluorescent Cells 2

The TERG at the RCSI utilises biomaterials expertise to develop construct and living system technologies that can restore the structural and functional properties of damaged or degenerated tissues, whilst also trying to expand fundamental understanding in the fields of mechanobiology.



Microvessels in a collagen GAG scaffold




Microdamage in compact bone




In-vivo fluorochrome labelled compact bone


Clinical Applications

Osteochondral Repair -Individual collagen-glycoaminoglycan scaffolds developed specifically for bone and cartilage repair, have been combined into multi-layered scaffolds through novel fabrication procedures and are currently being assessed with respect to their capacity to heal osteochondral defects.

Bone Repair - Using collagen-glycoaminoglycan or collagen-hydroxyapatite scaffolds to mimic native extracellular matrix, ongoing research seeks to generate a vascular network within these porous scaffolds and encase this vascular network with calcified matrix to create an in-vitro fabricated bone graft substitute.

Corneal Repair - In collaboration with our partners at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, Dublin City University, we are developing collagen- based carriers for corneal limbal stem cell transplantation.

Vascular Repair - Utilising our collagen-based scaffolds that exhibit high tensile properties, elastin has been incorporated into the composition to develop small diameter vascular grafts having compliance similar to native vessels, which are currently being optimised to promote tissue formation in vitro and facilitate healing in vivo.

Heart Valve Repair - In collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology, novel engineering methods are being utilised to create fibrin- infused collagen based scaffolds to create 3D heart valve shaped scaffolds.

Lung and Airway Repair - In collaboration with the School of Pharmacy in RCSI and Dept of Biology, NUI Maynooth, growth factor-enhanced collagen-glycosaminoglycan scaffolds are being designed for applications in respiratory drug development, disease modelling and airway regeneration.

MSCs acting as pericytes
Heart Valve Scaffold
Gel Embedded MLOY4 cells

This research has culminated in multiple patents and the creation of a spin out company, SurgaColl Technologies, which is currently driving forward the clinical and commercial translation of a number of these technologies.


Targeted Bio-therapeutic Delivery Platforms - In collaboration with a number of partners including our scaffolds are also being developed into targeted drug delivery platforms via the incorporation of bio-therapeutics such as drugs, proteins, peptides, genes and microRNA, thereby accelerating the healing capacity of these constructs. Furthermore, the group is pursuing the development of novel non-viral delivery vectors such as nano-hydroxyapatite, chitosan and PEI that can be used independently or in conjunction with the collagen-based scaffolds to enhance gene or nucleic acid delivery to cells.

In-vitro Model Systems of Disease - In conjunction with the MCT Dept. at RCSI, the dynamic interaction between bacteria and bone cells during infection is being elucidated by utilising these collagen-based scaffolds to create a simplified in-vitro model system of bone. Additionally, the incorporation of calcium phosphates into these collagen-based scaffolds is being utilised to gain insight into the behaviour of breast carcinoma cells in pseudo un-mineralised and mineralised environments.

Particle Loaded Scaffold
Cell bridging scaffold pore
Fibrin Loaded Scaffold

Mechanobiology Research

Research in the group, carried out in collaboration with David Hoey, is focused on the role of both cytoskeletal deformation and primary cilia as sensory mechanisms of mechanotransduction employed by mesenchymal stem cells, osteoblasts and osteocytes. Our lab is specifically interested in identifying genes that are mechanically augmented in response to shear stress and how these genes subsequently regulate the recruitment and differentiation of cell subsets that are crucial to bone formation and resorption processes. Furthermore, we are interested in elucidating how the mechanosensitivity of these cells is altered in disease states such as osteoporosis.

Flow Perfusion bioreactor
Bioreactor Schematic
Bioreactor chamber

Osteoporosis and Bone Mechanics

This aspect of our research focuses on bone biomechanics and osteoporosis. We are particularly focused on bone quality and the disparity between bone mineral density and bone fragility. Hierarchical studies of healthy and diseased bone, from whole bone mechanical testing down to gene expression analysis, identify early changes in the disease pathway. In conjunction with basic research, we are working with industry partners to validate new diagnostic tools and early stage management of osteoporosis. The information gained in these studies is also being used to improve our ability to replace damaged or diseased bone in patients.

Normal and Osteoporotic Bone 


TERG researchers also coordinate and/or have active roles in a number of EU consortia including DRIVEAMCARE and GENE2SKIN.  DRIVE Logo
 AMCARE Logo  Gene2Skin Logo