UCL Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering


New Article on Developmental Bioengineering in MSDE Journal

14 August 2020

Could we make the blind see and the lame walk again? Recent advances in the field of bioengineering bring such dreams closer to reality.


A Perspective article in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Molecular Systems Design & Engineering (MSDE) journal extends the CNIE’s methodology for design and innovation to a new area: Developmental Bioengineering.

Authored by Professor Eugene Goldfield from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, and Boston Children’s Hospital, and Professor Marc-Olivier Coppens from the Centre for Nature-Inspired Engineering, UCL, the article is entitled Developmental bioengineering: recapitulating development for repair.

The proposed approach first considers five prevalent, fundamental natural mechanisms in tissue development, linking to and extending the basis for CNIE Theme 3 (Dynamic Self-Organisation) and Theme 4 (Ecosystems). The premise is to leverage these mechanisms, used by nature herself to repair tissues, for therapeutic solutions. To realise the required functional materials, top-down and bottom-up manufacturing approaches need to be combined. Beyond materials, however, solutions should merge molecular-based and holistic perspectives, which requires a cross-disciplinary effort that spans (bio)materials synthesis to novel manufacturing tools, medicine, and personalised activity-based therapy.

The new framework is illustrated using two very recent examples of the restoration of tissues that were formerly deemed to be irreparable, namely: the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in the eye – damage to which may result in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a cause for blindness – and the spinal cord – damage to which may cause paralysis.

The proposed approach offers a systematic design strategy and has the potential to be applied more generally to other bioengineering challenges in the future, thus driving cross-disciplinary research and accelerate innovation.

The idea for the article emerged from discussions at the ECI Conference on Nature-Inspired Engineering in Italy last year, where Professor Goldfield was one of the keynote speakers, and now also serves on the CNIE’s Advisory Board.

You can read the (Gold Open Access) article here.