creating a
healthier future

NanoBiomaterials for Targeted Therapies


Our aim is to develop "smart" biomaterials, designed at the nanoscale with controlled architectures and functionalities, to provide in situ and in a targeted manner the required signals to promote nervous tissue repair and restoration of function.

Main aims:

  • design of biomaterials at the nanoscale to induce specific cellular/tissue responses;
  • evaluate in vitro and in vivo the biological performance of the developed nanobiomaterials.



Novel neuron targeted nanoparticles (NP) based on chitosan to deliver nucleic acids (NA) have been proposed and tested in vitro and in vivo. BDNF gene delivery mediated by the proposed nanosystems was found to be neuroprotective in peripheral nerve injury. The proposed NPs are highly versatile and transposable to other cell/tissues. As a proof, a collaboration was established in the design of NPs for NA delivery to the stomach in the treatment of gastric cancer.
Imaging flow cytometry, AFM and microfluidic platforms have also been proposed as new strategies to test NP bioperformance.

New hybrid-biodegradable, biocompatible, non-toxic, and water-soluble PEG–GATGE dendritic block copolymers have been proposed as novel degradable dendrimers for efficient and targeted nucleic acid delivery with the aim of neuroprotection and neurorepair of the ischemic brain.

We established a fibrin hydrogel platform with stiffness matching that of the human brain capable to support the survival, proliferation, and neuronal differentiation of single murine/human ES-derived neural stem/progenitor cells, envisaging its use for delivery of neural progenitors into the CNS. Fibrin functionalization with cell adhesive motifs binding to α6β1 integrin receptors further enhanced NSC neurite outgrowth and led to improved functional recovery after implantation in a SCI model.

A simple and reproducible 3D tissue engineered culture system of astrogliosis has been built, which mimics many features of the glial scar that is being explored in CNS drug screenings and remyelination strategies.

Ongoing projects are funded by FCT, INFARMED, H2020 ITN mCBEEs ( and Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa and do Porto.

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Selected Publications

Barros D., Parreira P., Furtado J., Ferreira-da-Silva F., Conde-Sousa E., García A.J., Martins M.C.L., Amaral I.F., Pêgo A.P.,
An affinity-based approach to engineer laminin-presenting cell instructive microenvironments. Biomaterials192:601-611, 2019. [Journal: Article] [CI: 11] [IF: 10,3]
DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2018.10.039 SCOPUS: 85059918479

Moreno P.M.D., Ferreira A.R., Salvador D., Rodrigues M.T., Torrado M., Carvalho E.D., Tedebark U., Sousa M.M., Amaral I.F., Wengel J., Pêgo A.P.,
Hydrogel-Assisted Antisense LNA Gapmer Delivery for In Situ Gene Silencing in Spinal Cord Injury. Molecular Therapy - Nucleic Acids11:393-406, 2018. [Journal: Article] [CI: 13] [IF: 5,9]
DOI: 10.1016/j.omtn.2018.03.009 SCOPUS: 85045213607

Santos S.D., Xavier M., Leite D.M., Moreira D.A., Custódio B., Torrado M., Castro R., Leiro V., Rodrigues J., Tomás H., Pêgo A.P.,
PAMAM dendrimers: blood-brain barrier transport and neuronal uptake after focal brain ischemia. Journal of Controlled Release291:65-79, 2018. [Journal: Article] [CI: 57] [IF: 7,9]
DOI: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2018.10.006 SCOPUS: 85055160262

Silva J., Bento A.R., Barros D., Laundos T.L., Sousa S.R., Quelhas P., Sousa M.M., Pêgo A.P., Amaral I.F.,
Fibrin functionalization with synthetic adhesive ligands interacting with a6ß1 integrin receptor enhance neurite outgrowth of embryonic stem cell-derived neural stem/progenitors. Acta Biomaterialia59:243-256, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 16] [IF: 6,4]
DOI: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.07.013 SCOPUS: 85023776762

Leiro V., Garcia J.P., Moreno P.M.D., Spencer A.P., Fernandez-Villamarin M., Riguera R., Fernandez-Megia E., Paula Pêgo A.,
Biodegradable PEG-dendritic block copolymers: Synthesis and biofunctionality assessment as vectors of siRNA. Journal of Materials Chemistry B5(25):4901-4917, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 17] [IF: 4,8]
DOI: 10.1039/c7tb00279c SCOPUS: 85021637380

Gomes C.P., Lopes C.D.F., Leitner M., Ebner A., Hinterdorfer P., Pêgo A.P.,
Atomic Force Microscopy as a Tool to Assess the Specificity of Targeted Nanoparticles in Biological Models of High Complexity. Advanced Healthcare Materials6(21):, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 5] [IF: 5,6]
DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201700597 SCOPUS: 85026363665

Lopes C.D.F., Gonçalves N.P., Gomes C.P., Saraiva M.J., Pêgo A.P.,
BDNF gene delivery mediated by neuron-targeted nanoparticles is neuroprotective in peripheral nerve injury. Biomaterials121:83-96, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 75] [IF: 8,8]
DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2016.12.025 SCOPUS: 85008958194

Lopes C.D.F., Gomes C.P., Neto E., Sampaio P., Aguiar P., Pêgo A.P.,
Microfluidic-based platform to mimic the in vivo peripheral administration of neurotropic nanoparticles. Nanomedicine11(24):3205-3221, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 11] [IF: 4,7]
DOI: 10.2217/nnm-2016-0247 SCOPUS: 84998705753

Pires L.R., Guarino V., Oliveira M.J., Ribeiro C.C., Barbosa M.A., Ambrosio L., Pêgo A.P.,
Ibuprofen-loaded poly(trimethylene carbonate-co-e-caprolactone) electrospun fibres for nerve regeneration. Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine10(3):E154-E166, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 48] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1002/term.1792 SCOPUS: 84961207080

Rocha D.N., Ferraz-Nogueira J.P., Barrias C.C., Relvas J.B., Pêgo A.P.,
Extracellular environment contribution to astrogliosis—lessons learned from a tissue engineered 3D model of the glial scar. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience9(SEPTEMBER):, 2015. [Journal: Article] [CI: 27] [IF: 4,6]
DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2015.00377 SCOPUS: 84944455274

Rocha D.N., Brites P., Fonseca C., Pêgo A.P.,
Poly(trimethylene carbonate-co-e-caprolactone) promotes axonal growth. PLoS ONE9(2):, 2014. [Journal: Article] [CI: 24] [IF: 3,2]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088593 SCOPUS: 84896121626

Leiro V., Spencer A.P., Magalhães N., Pêgo A.P.,
Versatile fully biodegradable dendritic nanotherapeutics. Biomaterials281:, 2022. [Journal: Article] [CI: 4] [IF: 14]
DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.121356 SCOPUS: 85122615698

Gulino M., Santos S.D., Pêgo A.P.,
Biocompatibility of Platinum Nanoparticles in Brain ex vivo Models in Physiological and Pathological Conditions. Frontiers in Neuroscience15:, 2021. [Journal: Article] [CI: 9] [IF: 5,2]
DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2021.787518 SCOPUS: 85121988659

Moreno P.M.D., Cortinhas J., Martins A.S., Pêgo A.P.,
Engineering a Novel Self-Assembled Multi-siRNA Nanocaged Architecture with Controlled Enzyme-Mediated siRNA Release. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces:, 2022. [Journal: Article] [IF: 9,5]
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.2c15086 SCOPUS: 85144279266

Rocha D.N., Carvalho E.D., Pires L.R., Gardin C., Zanolla I., Szewczyk P.K., Machado C., Fernandes R., Stachewicz U., Zavan B., Relvas J.B., Pêgo A.P.,
It takes two to remyelinate: A bioengineered platform to study astrocyte-oligodendrocyte crosstalk and potential therapeutic targets in remyelination. Biomaterials Advances151:, 2023. [Journal: Article] [CI: 1]
DOI: 10.1016/j.bioadv.2023.213429 SCOPUS: 85154606054

Ongoing Projects

PRIMING: Impact of maternal obesity on early-life microbiota-induced immune system priming
Reference: Bolsa Biocodex 2021 - PRIMING
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: Biocodex Microbiota Foundation
From 01-JUL-21 to 31-DEC-24
Hijacking the peripheral neurOns retrograde trafficking machinery to deliver neuroreParative molecules to the spinal cord
Reference: PTDC/BTM-MAT/4156/2021
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 31-DEC-24
Maternal Mycobiome Dysbiosis and its Influence on the Mycobiome of the Child
Reference: ESCMID Research Grants 2021 - R/008028
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: Eur.Soc.Clinical Microb. Infect. Diseases (ESCMID)
From 01-FEB-23 to 31-DEC-24
Smart dendritic contrast agent for accurate stroke diagnosis by computed tomography
Reference: CaixaImpulse CI23-10022
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: "la Caixa" Foundation
From 01-SEP-23 to 30-DEC-25
Investigations of Cell Responses to Extreme Environments Created by 3D Printing
Reference: FA9550-23-1-0599
Sponsor: AFOSR - Air Force Office of Scientific Research
From 15-SEP-23 to 14-SEP-26