UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Patricia Perez Esteban finalist in ICheme Young Chemical Engineering Awards

17 August 2016

Patricia has recently joined The Department of Biochemical Engineering as a teaching fellow, as well as taking up a new post Patricia has been nominated as a finalist in the ICheme Global Awards as Young Chemical Engineer in Research. The research is for a project in skin penetration.

Vascularisation of tissues is one of the most widely explored issues in the fields of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, not only because of ischemia (lack of blood supply) in transplantable organs and tissues but, specifically in the application considered in Patricia's PDRA project, because of the need for comparable and reliable in vitro testing due to the current ban on animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients in the European Union. The mechanism by which new blood vessels are formed is not fully understood yet, and it involves complicated biological routes comprising the presence of growth factors that can be harmful if they are overexpressed. 

Skin penetration studies in vitro are used to estimate bioavailability via the dermal route, i.e. the amount of a substance that can cross from the skin into the blood. Current skin penetration models in vitro do not incorporate any measure of capillary bed function, and as such do not reproduce physiological conditions:  they do not consider the resistance to flow posed by the blood vessels, and the position of the skin vasculature in vivo is much closer to the skin surface than that achieved in vitro.

The team proposed a novel strategy to mimic skin vascularisation in a completely artificial manner, using hollow fibres and micro-hollow fibres fabricated with tuneable biocompatible materials. They demonstrated the suitability of these membranes for the design of a capillary bed bioreactor for skin pseudo-vascularisation in terms of permeation rates (using caffeine as the test compound), and we incorporated them into commercial skin penetration cells. They observed that the fluxes seemed to increase in the hollow fibre system compared with similar tissue where pseudo-vascularisation was not present.We welcome Patricia and wish her all the best for the IChemE awards in November.