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Enabling precision chemical methodologies applied to natural-based systems for the development of multifunctional biomedical devices

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CHEM2NATURE (Enabling precision chemical methodologies applied to natural-based systems for the development of multifunctional biomedical devices)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-03-31

CHEM2NATURE addresses current limitations of UMINHO in the Chemistry field regarding its scientific knowhow and partnerships with world-leading institutions. UMINHO seeks to improve the multifunctionality of natural origin polymers, often with limited bioactivity and stimuli-responsiveness, and increase the performance of cell based therapies. Introducing such properties by precision chemical modifications would allow the development of added-value products with instructive and adaptive properties for cellular response control, drug delivery and diagnosis. The main goal of CHEM2NATURE is to combat UMINHO’s limited knowledge, expertise and experience on advanced chemical routes for biopolymer, biomaterials and “living” surface modification. To this aim, an international training and scientific network will be established to accelerate the generation of technologies amenable to be used in the production of innovative healthcare devices. The capability of UMINHO to train highly-qualified researchers and staff would greatly increase, giving rise to a new generation of specialized professionals with scientific/translational competence. The consortium will comprise UMINHO, UAVR and 3 international competitive institutions in Chemistry: 2 European and 1 Asian. The latter will improve UMINHO’s know-how in the translational/clinical fields and raise opportunities to establish new contacts with high-performing and Emerging Asian countries. CHEM2NATURE proposes the joint organisation of events and short-term exchange of senior researchers and staff, aiming at training actions and execution of scientific work in the scope of ongoing scientific projects. Outputs include the increase of number and quality of scientific publications, intellectual property and regional-to-national economic development. CHEM2NATURE will endorse the establishment of a long-lasting consortium beyond the project timeframe for the preparation of new scientific projects and research lines in UMINHO.
During the first 15 months of the CHEM2NATURE project the consortium organised a series of events related with the scientific topic of the project, i.e. Chemical modification of polymeric materials for the development of multifunctional biomaterials. In total, one School was organised between the 21st of November 2016 and the 25th of November 2016 at the facilities of the University of Minho in Barco – Taipas, under the theme “Chemical strategies for the modification of natural origin materials for biomedical applications”. This event has the participation of 80 attendees, including 13 keynote speakers, 2 young oral presenters and 12 short oral presenters.
During this period, it was also organised 1 international symposium in the same theme of the CHEM2NATURE project. It was integrated within the 5th PYCheM /1st EYCheM Meeting organised by the Young Chemists Group from the Portuguese Chemistry Society, in Guimarães, Portugal, between the 26th to the 29th of April 2016. The symposium included 3 keynote presentations. The whole event counted with 215 participants.
The last event that was organised within this period was a 2-days international workshop at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, between the 23rd and 24th of January 2017. The theme of the workshop was “Efficient Chemistries for the Synthesis and Functionalisation of Polymeric Materials”, and 46 attendees participated in the workshop. It was an important tool to create awareness in the audience about the different chemical strategies (e.g. click chemistry based ones) that can be employed to modify polymers to better tune their properties for an improved performance as biomaterials.
The main objective of the CHEM2NATURE project is to improve the knowledge and capacity of the coordinator institution (University of Minho) to perform research in the biomedical field using chemical tools to improve the functionality of the exploited polymeric biomaterials. This is an ongoing process and some improvements were already observed, which are supported by the publications that are reported in the project. These already include the use of chemical tools that have been a strategy that has not been strongly exploited by the 3B’s Research Group. The project gave this initial boost in the exploitation of these chemical strategies and it is expected a considerable increment in the next few months under this line of research. Important to notice is that these developments can also promote significant impacts in the scientific field of the application, through the better tuning of the chemical and physical properties of the biomaterials that can significantly enhance their functionality under the biological environment.
It is important to point out that these improvements can also induce a multi-functionality which are extremely important in the biomedical area due to the necessity to interact with a complex environment, where, for example is important to create materials able to specifically interact with the cellular environment, as for example to induce the differentiation of stem cells, while maintaining the bioactivity of proteins, among many other important features.
The achievement of these scientific objectives has the potential to induce a significant advancement in the capacity of the biomaterials to better interact with the cellular environment. These new biomaterials, with appropriate and specific tuning, can present a much higher performance in contact with cells, tissues and organs, than the ones that are presently being investigated. In this sense, the implantation of these new multi-functional structures can produce a significant impact in the society due to the expected significantly better performance, improving the quality of life of the patients that, in the future, will receive such biomaterials.