TREC (Tissue Repair & Engineering Centre) is internationally active in research into cytomechanical control of tissue organisation and matrix material growth. It currently has collaborative funding of approximately £2 million including two EU consortia and strong European and US collaborative links.

Cytomechanics & Substrate Guidance
Cell-level mechanical and 3D spatial cues are essential to the organisation and architecture of new tissues as they form during development, repair or in bioreactors. How these signals affect organisation is key to both the basic understanding of tissue (particularly connective and contractile) regeneration and tissue engineering of implantable devices. The TREC has a long and unique track record in both cell-generated forces (e.g. important in scar contracture) and the mechanisms by which external mechanical loads control cell behaviour and spatial organisation. The role of mechanical cues in most cells can only be considered in conjunction with the mechanical properties of cell substrate or scaffold are used. TREC has developed a number of novel protein based cell scaffold materials to test this linkage and provide cell level (microscale) guidance cues. These have been based on liquid crystal, linear aggregating proteins, fibronectin, fibrin, collagen. The group is now building up new lab facilities to study and develop platform technologies based on such meso-material substrates.


3D Model Tissues & Tissue Engineering Bioreactors
Work at the TREC for over 10 years has been directed to understanding the control mechanisms and development of 3D tissue bioreactors. These have chiefly used mechanical loading and cytomechanical cues to control tissue formation. There are now a number of versions of this system aimed at forming MODEL 3D tissues or organoids in culture (models of nerve, muscle, tendon, skin, gliding interface). These are all constructed on a similar pattern but with differing cells/protocols, controlled by a defined mechanical environment. These systems are not designed primarily as therapeutic implants but to form MODEL TISSUES. Such models are providing dramatic new insights into the detail of how simple tissue systems grow and mature. Eventually they will form standardised test beds for drug and device testing, pathological studies and experimental platforms and tissue standards.

An important aspect of this sector of study is the ability to quantitatively monitor 3D tissue properties (structure, cell activity, etc.) as it changes with time. This is an active area, in collaboration with colleagues in Medical Physics to develop and understand minimally invasive signals from fibre optic spectroscopy, is proving real-time structural information. This technology is also being developed to monitor tissue architecture in vivo using the tendon as a template model of organised, aligned structure with gliding properties.


Repair & Integration across Tissue Interfaces
TREC has a research theme studying specific questions of cell matrix repair/regeneration, particularly across tissue interfaces, both in reforming (integration) fixed anastomoses between cut tissue surfaces (e.g. tendon laceration) or avoidance of adhesion between interfaces which normally glide (e.g. tendon or nerve). These are key basic questions in the reformation of a functional tissue architecture needed for tissue regeneration. They also directly impact on cell level mechanics within a tissue engineered implant or repair site (See area 1). Understanding of the basic mechanisms by which cells at interfaces either produce or prevent actual physical (collagen/connective tissue) bridging is central to functional tissue regeneration/engineering. TREC has a number of novel experimental models and clinical translation research projects to test potential therapeutic approaches.


Network of Research
Interdisciplinary collaboration and networking are obligatory to true tissue engineering or tissue regeneration. As a leading research centre into basic control processing and platform systems needed in tissue engineering, TREC is host to the British Tissue Engineering Network (BRITE Net) and actively participates in the UK and European Tissue Engineering Societies. In addition TREC collaborates widely across the United States and Europe with acknowledged centres of surgical, engineering and scientific excellence in the field.

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Institute of Orthopaedics, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Brockley Hill, Stanmore HA7 4LP
Administrator: Sally Brown