Prof. João F. Mano has received, for the second time in a row, a prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC-AdG).  It is a 2.5 million euros grant to execute the project entitled REBORN: Full human-based multi-scale constructs with jammed regenerative pockets for bone engineering.

ERC Advanced Grants allow exceptional established research leaders of any nationality and any age to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects that open new directions in any domain.

This advanced grant was the only one, among the 185 approved this year, awarded to a Portuguese researcher or to a researcher working in Portugal.

The ERC-AdG grant will allow, for 5 years, to develop cutting-edge work in the field of bioengineering of human tissues and advanced biomaterials, namely in the creation of strategies for the regeneration of bone tissue, which may have a clinical impact in cases of massive loss or extensive bone fractures. One of the innovations of the project is the use of proteins obtained from tissues collected during childbirth, normally disposable, namely the amniotic membrane and the umbilical cord. These will serve as a basis for the construction of highly hierarchical devices, from the nano-scale to the macro-scale, with a high capacity to generate mineralized bone tissue and promote its vascularization. From these perinatal tissues it will be also possible to collect and use cells that will play a fundamental role in the construction of tissues in vitro. The cells will be encapsulated into small artificial “placentas” that will provide appropriate biochemical and mechanical signals and will promote the formation of functional micro-tissues in a completely autonomous manner. The agglomeration of these “regenerative pockets” in a controlled spatial way will allow the development of three-dimensional tissues at the scale-length of real bone defects, with high geometric precision.

In addition to direct therapeutic applications involving implantation, these innovative devices may also serve as models of diseases with dimensions and specifications similar to those of real tissues, in order to test new drugs and therapies; those can be seen as an alternative solution to animal tests or clinical trials.

This grant will reinforce the capability of the COMPASS Research Group to combine high-level basic research with radically innovative therapeutic solutions that may have an impact on the quality of life of patients.

Press-release in Portuguese