Oct 17 2022 Posted: 08:00 IST

Innovative programme trains doctoral researchers in developing bioengineered humanised 3D models to advance drug discovery

The lifETIME (Engineered Tissues for Discovery, Industry and Medicine) CDT is a partnership between CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at the University of Galway, the University of Glasgow, the University of Birmingham, and Aston University.

The aim of the programme is to train 84 PhD students, 25 of which will be based at CÚRAM labs in Ireland, as the next generation of innovation leaders in drug discovery and regenerative medicine. This is achieved through developing bioengineered humanised 3D models, microfluidics, diagnostics and sensing platforms.

CÚRAM Director Professor Abhay Pandit said: “CÚRAM’s participation in this programme, unique in Ireland and the first of its kind to be supported by Science Foundation Ireland, speaks to our strength and capacity for innovation in research. It demonstrates CÚRAM’s vision to develop the next generation of industry-relevant, publicly engaged researchers and  illustrates our strength in creating unique, synergistic networks across academic, industry and clinical institutions.”

The lifETIME CDT focuses on developing animal-free technologies for drug discovery, toxicology screening and regenerative medicine to improve the predictive power of pre-clinical drug screening and thus drive medicines discovery.

Managing the programme for CÚRAM is Dr Mihai Lomora, an SFI Funded Investigator and Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of Galway.

“This programme marks a significant step forward in how we conduct our research. The current system of growing cells in a monolayer is simply not realistic of the complexity of the human body. Developing a system that enables us to organise human cells in a 3D fashion will not only allow us to reduce the need for animal models but also gives us greater hope in understanding human-relevant disease mechanisms and reduce the failure rate in clinical trials.”

Meet some of the CÚRAM researchers carrying out their doctoral research as part of this ground-breaking consortium.

Eileen Reidy is developing state-of-the-art multicellular models of the 3D colorectal tumour microenvironment. This multicellular in vitro 3D ‘organ on a chip’ system that incorporates immune cells, vasculature and primary human cells (including tumour and stromal cells) will be used to study complex, important interactions between the colorectal microenvironment and immune system to identify new immunotherapy targets for colorectal cancer.

Meenakshi Suku is modelling myocardial infarction (heart attack) to generate functional cardiac organoids. The purpose of this PhD project is to intertwine the fields of bioengineering, biochemistry and immunology by combining macrophages - key cells of the innate immune system- with cardiac organoids to achieve a more physiologically relevant model and achieve a diseased ‘heart-attack on-a-dish’ organoid model as a patient-specific pharmacological testing platform.

Patrick C Hurley is developing an MS-on-a-chip device, which will mimic the pathology of MS with the eventual goal of using this system to assess the efficacy of novel therapeutics. This MS-on-a-chip system will require using various materials available in CÚRAM and tools available in the National Centre for Laser Applications located in the University of Galway. The developed system will subsequently be validated by assessing the effect of established MS therapeutics in a series of blinded tests.

Ibrahim Halilullah Erbay is developing new experimental models of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Ultimately, the use of models and new experimental data will allow a more detailed study of the mechanisms of pathology, as well as the development and testing of new drugs, new drug delivery systems and new effective therapeutic approaches.

For more on the lifETIME CDT Programme see- https://lifetime-cdt.org/


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