Microenvironments for New Therapies

The Microenvironments for New Therapies (MNT) group dissects cellular and non-cellular microenvironment elements that contribute either to tissue homeostasis or repair/regenerate tissues upon disease and/or injury, with a particular focus in the modulation of the immune response. Envisaging clinical applications, the MNT group uses bioengineering approaches to modulate host response in order to promote functional restoration of tissues. Different disease model-systems are under investigation namely in the osteoarticular system (bone fracture, intervertebral disc degeneration) and in the cardiovascular system (myocardium infarction).


In the osteoarticular field the MNT group has been working in biomaterials for bone, namely in immunomodulatory biomaterials, such as thrombin-free fibrinogen scaffolds (Vasconcelos, 2016), biomaterials with pro-resolution lipid mediators (Vasconcelos, 2015, 2016) and strontium-rich injectable systems (Neves, 2016). Also, the group has been investigating how the immune response can be modulated by biomaterials (Caires, 2016; Barbosa, 2016; Teixeira, 2016). In degenerated intervertebral disc, the MNT group demonstrated that intravenous administration of MSCs reduced disc herniation (Cunha, 2017) and that MSCs can migrate from the cartilaginous endplates to the disc, promoting extracellular matrix (ECM) remodelling (Pereira, 2016). In the cardiac field, we have recently identified a transcriptional regulator key for cardiac specification in early embryonic development (Freire, 2017) and a higher potential for the 3D foetal heart ECM to support cardiac cells (Silva, 2016), while also contributing knowledge on the mechanisms subjacent to a paracrine beneficial role, following myocardial infarction (Valente, 2015), of human MSC and of mesenchymal progenitors of the adult heart (Nascimento, 2014; Mosqueira, 2014).

Morphology of macrophages differentiated on surfaces can be observed by staining for F-actin filaments (red) and nuclei (green).