Where Ideas Grow

Microenvironments for New Therapies

The vision of our group is to render bioengineered microenvironments powerful tools for the treatment and diagnosis of disease. For this, the group integrates teams with strong expertise in matrix bioengineering, stem cell bioengineering and RNA-based bioengineering.

The activity of the group is strongly translation-oriented, based on well-established collaborations with medical professionals, namely neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons. Osteoarticular diseases, namely those associated with ageing (e.g. spine degeneration and osteoarthritis), are major areas of application.

Pivotal in the strategy of the group is the modulation of the inflammatory response, namely through immunomodulatory biomaterials, which are strongly influenced by our “learn with nature” approach. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a permanent source of inspiration for the bioengineered microenvironments developed by our group.

The group is highly interdisciplinary and provides an ideal environment for post-graduate training, namely at the PhD and MSc level.

Scientific integrity, environmental awareness, accountability, internal and external cooperation (including with foreign group of excellence), social engagement, encouragement to breakthrough ideas, support to new initiatives (particularly by the younger group members) and mentoring in career development are key values in our group.

The group has made important contributions to the understanding and modulation of cell-biomaterial interactions, namely on how biomaterials chemistry, structure and biomechanics can be designed to guide cell behaviour, including inflammatory cells.

The group is aligned with the strategic objectives of Host Interaction and Response (HIR) and Cancer Programs. At the i3S our contributions fall in the field of bioengineering.

The group integrates three teams:
Matrix bioengineering (MA Barbosa, CC Ribeiro, JN Barbosa, SG Santos and C Cunha) - the team is dedicated to bioengineering matrix-inspired biomaterials that modulate the inflammatory response, including hierarchically designed matrices and nanocomplexes for tissue regeneration and cancer. The team also explores the crosstalk between immune cells and other tissue cells in the context of cell/biomaterial interactions. Major applications include bone, intervertebral disc and articular cartilage.
Stem cell bioengineering (RM Gonçalves, J Caldeira) – The team is dedicated to bioengineering mesenchymal stem/stromal cells- and nanoparticles-based therapies, focusing on intervertebral disc. The team explores the recapitulation of initial developmental stages to promote disc regeneration, while developing physiological ex vivo models of tissue degeneration.
RNA-based bioengineering (MI Almeida, J Freitas) – The team is dedicated to Non-Coding RNA (ncRNA) therapeutics for regenerative medicine and cancer, with a focus on the osteoarticular system. It uses ncRNA-based molecular bioengineering tools for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies aiming to modulate cellular immunomodulatory properties, proliferation and differentiation capacities, intra- and intercellular signalling, and the extracellular matrix remodelling.

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


Selected Publications

Molinos M., Cunha C., Almeida C.R., Gonçalves R.M., Pereira P., Silva P.S., Vaz R., Barbosa M.A.,
Age-Correlated Phenotypic Alterations in Cells Isolated from Human Degenerated Intervertebral Discs with Contained Hernias. Spine43(5):E274-E284, 2018. [Journal: Article] [CI: 12] [IF: 2,9]
DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000002311 SCOPUS: 85021845784

Caldeira J., Santa C., Osório H., Molinos M., Manadas B., Goncalves R., Barbosa M.,
Matrisome Profiling during Intervertebral Disc Development and Ageing. Scientific Reports7(1):, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 32] [IF: 4,1]
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11960-0 SCOPUS: 85029508543

Pinto M.L., Rios E., Silva A.C., Neves S.C., Caires H.R., Pinto A.T., Durães C., Carvalho F.A., Cardoso A.P., Santos N.C., Barrias C.C., Nascimento D.S., Pinto-do-Ó P., Barbosa M.A., Carneiro F., Oliveira M.J.,
Decellularized human colorectal cancer matrices polarize macrophages towards an anti-inflammatory phenotype promoting cancer cell invasion via CCL18. Biomaterials124:211-224, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 83] [IF: 8,8]
DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2017.02.004 SCOPUS: 85013069713

Neves N., Linhares D., Costa G., Ribeiro C.C., Barbosa M.A.,
In vivo and clinical application of strontium-enriched biomaterials for bone regeneration. Bone and Joint Research6(6):366-375, 2017. [Journal: Review] [CI: 48] [IF: 2,4]
DOI: 10.1302/2046-3758.66.BJR-2016-0311.R1 SCOPUS: 85021702111

Vasconcelos D.M., Gonçalves R.M., Almeida C.R., Pereira I.O., Oliveira M.I., Neves N., Silva A.M., Ribeiro A.C., Cunha C., Almeida A.R., Ribeiro C.C., Gil A.M., Seebach E., Kynast K.L., Richter W., Lamghari M., Santos S.G., Barbosa M.A.,
Fibrinogen scaffolds with immunomodulatory properties promote inαvivo bone regeneration. Biomaterials111:163-178, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 49] [IF: 8,4]
DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2016.10.004 SCOPUS: 84991771953

Almeida M.I., Silva A.M., Vasconcelos D.M., Almeida C.R., Caires H., Pinto M.T., Calin G.A., Santos S.G., Barbosa M.A.,
miR-195 in human primary mesenchymal stromal/stem cells regulates proliferation, osteogenesis and paracrine effect on angiogenesis. Oncotarget7(1):7-22, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 50] [IF: 5,2]
DOI: 10.18632/ONCOTARGET.6589 SCOPUS: 84969765513

Teixeira G.Q., Leite Pereira C., Castro F., Ferreira J.R., Gomez-Lazaro M., Aguiar P., Barbosa M.A., Neidlinger-Wilke C., Goncalves R.M.,
Anti-inflammatory Chitosan/Poly-γ-glutamic acid nanoparticles control inflammation while remodeling extracellular matrix in degenerated intervertebral disc. Acta Biomaterialia42:168-179, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 49] [IF: 6,3]
DOI: 10.1016/j.actbio.2016.06.013 SCOPUS: 84983262266

Vasconcelos D.P., Costa M., Amaral I.F., Barbosa M.A., Águas A.P., Barbosa J.N.,
Modulation of the inflammatory response to chitosan through M2 macrophage polarization using pro-resolution mediators. Biomaterials37:116-123, 2015. [Journal: Article] [CI: 111] [IF: 8,4]
DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2014.10.035 SCOPUS: 84922253992

Almeida C.R., Serra T., Oliveira M.I., Planell J.A., Barbosa M.A., Navarro M.,
Impact of 3-D printed PLA- and chitosan-based scaffolds on human monocyte/macrophage responses: Unraveling the effect of 3-D structures on inflammation. Acta Biomaterialia10(2):613-622, 2014. [Journal: Article] [CI: 194] [IF: 6]
DOI: 10.1016/j.actbio.2013.10.035 SCOPUS: 84896505907

Maciel J., Oliveira M.I., Colton E., McNally A.K., Oliveira C., Anderson J.M., Barbosa M.A.,
Adsorbed fibrinogen enhances production of bone- and angiogenic-related factors by monocytes/macrophages. Tissue Engineering - Part A20(1-2):250-263, 2014. [Journal: Article] [CI: 33] [IF: 4,7 (*)]
DOI: 10.1089/ten.tea.2012.0439 SCOPUS: 84891526984

Ongoing Projects

Biomateriais hierárquicos de inspiração fetal para regeneração num microambiente severo: o núcleo do disco intervertebral
Reference: PTDC/BTM-MAT/0438/2020
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-MAR-21 to 29-FEB-24
Fetal-inspired IVD regeneration through CRISPR-mediated NP cell editing
Reference: EXPL/BTM-ORG/0880/2021
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-JAN-22 to 30-JUN-23
Extracellular Vesicle-enabled Scaffolds for Spinal Fusion: combining mesenchymal stem/stromal cell recruitment with enhanced osteogenic differentiation
Reference: ON Pilot Grant n? 21-373
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: ON Foundation
From 01-FEB-22 to 31-JAN-24
New 2D nanomaterials for cancer phototherapy and immunotherapy
Reference: UTAP-EXPL/NPN/0044/2021
Proponent: FEUP - Faculdade Engenharia do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-APR-22 to 30-JUN-23