Media Releases / 27 November 2019

An international team of scientists led by Monash University and the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute in Melbourne, Australia, has cleared the way for the use of growth factors to promote tissue repair by improving the delivery system of the molecules, busting cancer side effects and potentially slashing costs.

The breakthrough has the potential to improve the lives of countless patients and reduce the burden on healthcare systems around the world.

The breakthrough has the potential to improve the lives of countless patients and reduce the burden on healthcare systems around the world.

Scientists at Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and the Australian chapter of the renowned European Molecular Biology Laboratory published their findings in a recent edition of the prestigious journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. They had collaborated with experts as far afield as the United States and Switzerland.

Associate Professor Mikaël Martino, leader of this latest work, said the potential of growth factors – molecules that can induce tissue growth or differentiation – had been known for decades.

“But only a few of these molecules have reached clinical practice because we don’t know how to deliver them effectively,” he said.

In this latest research, the team devised a way to control the signalling of growth factors precisely. In current conventional systems, specific biomaterials are used to deliver the growth factor, which degrades and releases it drop by drop. But the system is imperfect.

“We use ‘tonic’ signalling, which is slower and much longer than usual burst signalling, which is very rapid and strong,” Associate Professor Martino said.

“We add an extra step when the growth factor is close to the cell,” he said. “Instead of directly going to the receptor, we first get it to bind to the cell surface and then we have controlled release from the surface to the cell receptor. In this scheme, called ‘docking’, we try to mimic how tissue growth happens in real life.”

By mimicking ‘real-life’ tissue growth, potential side effects including heightened cancer risk and blood vessel leakage which can lead to hypotension, are mitigated.

“If you think about the cost versus effectiveness, these molecules [growth factors] are not very good. If we modify them and improve the way they trigger signalling, we might have very potent molecules at lower cost.” - Associate Professor Mikaël Martino

This novel delivery system developed by the research team may not only lead to improved chances of treatment efficacy, but it may also help reduce associated costs. Associate Professor Martino said growth factors can be prohibitively expensive.

“If you think about the cost versus effectiveness, these molecules are not very good,” he said. “If we modify them and improve the way they trigger signalling, we might have very potent molecules at lower cost.”

“We tried to mimic tissue growth in nature so we took inspiration from developmental biology.”

More information

Click here to read the publication: Mochizuki, M., Güç, E., Park, A.J. et al. Growth factors with enhanced syndecan binding generate tonic signalling and promote tissue healing. Nat Biomed Eng (2019) doi:10.1038/s41551-019-0469-1

The Martino Group combines research in immunology, stem cells, and bioengineering, in order to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing tissue repair and regeneration. For more information on Associate Professor Mikaël Martino and the Martino Group at ARMI, please visit the Martino Group page. You can contact Mikaël via mikael.martino@monash.edu