Applications

With 40 years of combined scientific research, our innovative, fully synthetic and reproducible peptide hydrogels have been used to support a range of application areas, such as organoids, stem cells, cancer, bioprinting, and regenerative medicine.

Discover some of our most compelling success stories that feature our leading PeptiGels® and PeptiInks® here.

The use of PeptiGels® in the Development of Gastro-intestinal Organoids

Organoid formation in preclinical studies requires the use of an extracellular matrix (ECM), such as MatrigelTM. However, these ECMs are often derived from a tumorigenic source which limits the translational data and scalability adoption of organoids.

Offering a synthetic and animal-free solution, Dr. Dammy Olayanju (Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research) applied PeptiGels® to provide a disease-free ECM which successfully supported growth of fully formed liver/gastro-intestinal organoids for up to 27 days.

The successful growth of these organoids allowed for reproducible and scalable results to be achieved, opening the potential for PeptiGels® to provide more reliable preclinical studies for the pharmacological and toxicology studies.


Successful Growth of Kidney Organoids using PepitGels®

Induced pluripotent stem cell derived kidney organoids offer valuable insights into how the organ develops in the body. However, a gap remains in the understanding surrounding the optimal conditions required for the generation of kidney organoids that fully mimics the in vivo organ.

PeptiGel® and its tuneable properties offers an ideal environment in which the organoid is developing to be optimised. This has allowed Niall Treacy (UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research) to successfully grow kidney organoids in an animal-free synthetic environment.

By bridging the gap in the understanding of the optimal conditions for organoid growth, PeptiGels® offer an increased understanding of kidney organoid in-vitro modelling for toxicity testing and drug discovery.

Delivering Stem Cell Therapies for Nerve Repair

Peripheral nerve injuries (PNI) are a common consequence of trauma to upper and lower limbs. Current treatment involves autografting nerves which can cause donor site morbidity and loss of sensitivity.

Schwann cells are key cells involved in nerve regeneration, however obtaining them requires harvesting healthy patient nerves. As an alternative approach to the regeneration of PNI, Dr. Adam Reid’s group (University of Manchester) successfully used PeptiGels® as synthetic scaffolds for the culture and chemical differentiation of human derived-adipose stem cells toward a Schwann cell-like phenotype.

This research has proven the capabilities of PeptiGels® in delivering cells for an alternative approach to the regeneration of peripheral nerves, and in future applications for bioengineered nerve grafts.

PeptiGels® can Mimic both Healthy and Pancreatic Cancer Tumour Tissue Properties

The extracellular matrix of different organs and cellular settings have very different chemical properties. In pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), acidic fibrous tissue is present around the tumour which hampers drug delivery and impacts cancer cell survival and proliferation.

PeptiGel® pH and stiffness can be modulated (1-20 kPa) to mimic the acidic fibrous cancer tissue, as well as healthy tissue, making them very suitable for applications in mechanobiology and cancer.

Dr Armando Del Rio Hernandez’s research group (Imperial College London) have used PeptiGels® to mimic the mechanical and chemical environment of both healthy and cancer tissue. Results showed the tumour mimicking PeptiGel® (stiff and acidic) to induce a biomechanical response in PDAC suit-2 cells, resulting in an increased proliferation (expression of Ki67).


PeptiGels® can Support the Formation of a 3D Breast Cancer Tumour Model

The tumour microenvironment (TME) is a complex network of cancer cells, other cell types, and extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules, and is essential for the development of tumours. To study cancer initiation and progression, and for the development of drugs targeting the TME in vitro, these components must be replicated.

PeptiGel® stiffness can be modulated to mimic breast cancer tissue, and they can also be functionalised with ECM proteins and cell recognition sequences to increase cell proliferation and survival.

Olga Tsigkou’s research group (University of Manchester) have used PeptiGels® to support the growth of a 3D tumour model using MCF-7 breast cancer cells, HUVEC, and MSC cells. This is a very promising solution for studying 3D in vitro tumour models using animal free materials, for drug discovery applications.

PeptiGels® can Prevent Oesophageal Strictures and Promote the Regeneration of Healthy Tissue

Barrett’s oesophagus, if left untreated, often leads to oesophageal cancer, the 8th most common cancer in the world. Current treatments to remove the pre-cancerous cells can damage healthy cells and lead to fibrotic strictures.

Prof Julie Gough’s research group (University of Manchester) have used PeptiGels® (peptide hydrogels) to co-culture rat oesophageal stromal fibroblasts, and mouse oesophageal epithelial cells to support the formation of a functional epithelial sheet.

PeptiGels® are mucoadhesive and can be sprayed endoscopically directly to the treatment areas, making them a promising solution towards a treatment for stricture management in Barrett’s oesophagus, and a perfect solution for tissue regenerative scaffolds in general.

Using PeptiInks® to Print Mammary Epithelial Cell Laden Constructs with High Structural Integrity.

3D bioprinting is an emerging field in drug discovery, cancer, and regenerative medicine. The key limitation however is the development of an optimal bioink that is able to print complex structures with geometrical accuracy, tuneable mechanical stiffness, and long-term cell viability.

Dr. Marco Domingo’s group (University of Manchester) used PeptiGels® with varying stiffness to print mammary epithelial cell laden constructs with high structural integrity using an extrusion based bioprinter. The printed samples were subsequently cultured for 7 days.

PeptiGels® have shear thinning properties, hence they can be injected, printed, and recover their structural integrity immediately after the shear is removed. PeptiGels® also have tuneable mechanical properties and they can promote cell attachment, proliferation, and differentiation, making them suitable bioinks for 3D bioprinting applications.

Tailored PeptiGels® for the Targeted Delivery and Controlled Release of Therapeutics; Solving Currently Unmet Clinical Needs

PeptiGels® are shear thinning materials, and consequently can be injected or sprayed to specific sites in vivo making them ideal delivery vehicles for the controlled delivery of therapeutics. The kinetics of release of the therapeutic is manipulated in part by varying the pore size of the hydrogel (via peptide concentration), but mainly via directing electrostatic interactions.

In one exemplar study, PeptiGels® have been used for the targeted delivery of therapeutic mRNA loaded within lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) for the treatment Colorectal cancer, the third and fourth most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in males and females, respectively, with high rates of mortality.

To date, several biological delivery vectors including liposomes and LNPs have been used to deliver mRNA, but with some notable limitations. Direct intra-tumoural injections of such formulations, as an example, have shown poor tumour retention, which has limited the effectiveness of these products. PeptiGels® demonstrate the potential to overcome these issues by immobilising the nanoparticles at the site of injection. Furthermore, these hydrogels are highly compatible with this approach and are known to be non-immunogenic, non-inflammatory and can be tailored to match the properties of the surrounding tissue/tumour, which further benefits retention in the tumour.

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