The Peer review has evaluated this group as Excellent
Molecular and cellular engineering The Laboratories involved in this research activities are the Laboratory of Computational Biomechanics, the Laboratory of BioMedical Informatics and e- Health, the Biosignal Processing Laboratory, the Laboratory of Biomaterials and the laboratory of Micro and Biofluid-dynamics. Several projects are currently under development. Molecular dynamics approach is used for the study of nano and micro mechanics of biological materials and in particular it is focused on molecular motors (myosin and kinesin) and cytoskeleton structures (microtubules and actin filaments,) and extracellular matrix characterization (collagen and proteoglycans). Another field of research is the development of new approaches for material functionalisation by nano-active agents (nanocoatings, deposition of cellular ligands) able to interact with specific tissues at different scales (nano, micro and meso) by means of techniques such as chemico-physical surface modification, single molecular layer deposition, nano-imprinting, topological modifications. Design of microfluidics in lab-on-a-chip for electrophoresis and PCR is another new project started with MIT and ST Microelectronics. This research line also concerns the development and employment of methods and techniques for the processing of the information of the genome and proteome which allows to find out a structure-to-function quantitative relationship, on the characterisation of molecule and biomolecules features by means of molecular modelling and on transport phenomena investigation at the nano and micro scale. Biomaterials The research activities in this area are developed at the Biomaterials Laboratory and in part at the Laboratory of Computational Biomechanics. A first action concerns the design, synthesis and characterization of elastomers for cardiovascular applications (i.e. polyurethanes for vascular prosthesis, heart valves, 36 artificial ventricles) and orthopaedic applications. Recently, the research activity has been extended to hydrogels as a class of materials that presents very promising properties for a controlled release of drugs and biomolecules and as scaffolds/matrices in regenerative medicine. Another research line deals with polymeric surfaces with enhanced hemocompatibility for cardio-vascular applications and able to decrease bacterial adhesion to biomedical devices (i.e. catheters). Different surface modifications of titanium surface are also investigated to reduce bacteria adhesion. In addition, at Biomaterials Lab smart polymeric surfaces are designed and prepared to promote specific cells responses, supporting a better in vivo material integration. Shape memory polymers and metal alloys are under investigation, particularly for minimally invasive surgical approaches in orthopaedic and vascular devices. Hence, new research approaches concern the development of smart materials such as shape memory materials, stimuli-sensitive materials, drug delivery materials and modulable biodegradable materials to be used in innovative approaches of tissue engineering applications. At the Biomaterials Lab, a systematic study of explanted prostheses (mechanical heart valves and breast prostheses) is performed to correlate the presence of structural and morphological defects of the prosthesis components to the in vivo failure of the device. Eventually an European project is ongoing concerning the design of membranes for blood treatment and drug release by means of molecular dynamics. Tissue Engineering The research activities in this area are carried out at the Biomaterials Laboratory, at the Laboratory of Cell Culture and Biocompatibility, at the Laboratory of Micro and Bio Fluid-dynamics and at the Laboratory of Computational Biomechanics. Several projects are carried out in this field by combining the expertise of researchers from different disciplines. A number of activities deals with the design, synthesis, development and manufacturing of scaffolds for treatment and repair of damaged tissues (e.g. bones, muscle, neurons, vessels, ligaments). Polymeric and composite 3D scaffolds are developed and their biomimetic properties and bone cells supporting ability are investigated under static and dynamic conditions. More recent activities are about the design and fabrication of bioreactors comprising perfusion systems and systems for the application of mechanical, electrical chemical and optical stimuli. This research is performed by using both experimental and computational (CAD, CFD, CSD, MD) techniques In general, these activities are coordinated in order set up cell culture protocols specific for the tissue under investigation involving scaffolds, stimulation strategies, bioreactors, sensoring and monitoring. Activities are typically carried out in collaboration with groups of biologists and or clinicians involved in the specific projects. Bioartificial Interfaces 37 This area has been very recently started and is focused on identification and optimisation of micro and nano technologies for on chip neuronal cultures stimulation and activity recording for neurotoxicology, drug discovery and neurobiology applications. Activities are carried out at the laboratory of Neurobiotechnology recently established at the San Raffaele Hospital as a joint Laboratory between the two Institution. In particular researchers in this area works on chip design, protein patterning, optical stimulation via caged neurotransmitters and chip integrated waveguides, and optical detection of electrical activity by VSD fluorescence spectrum and lifetime variations.
M. Cristina Tanzi