Institute of Genetic Medicine

Staff Profile

Professor Che Connon

Professor of Tissue Engineering

Background

Previous Positions:

2012 - 2014    Reader in Tissue Engineering and Cell Therapy, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, UK.

2007 - 2012    RCUK Academic Research Fellow, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, UK.

2004 - 2006    Royal Society Fellowship, School of Optometry & Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, UK.

2002 - 2004    JSPS Fellowship, Dept. Ophthalmology, Kyoto University of Medicine, Japan.             

2001 - 2002    PDRA, School of Optometry & Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, UK.

2000 - 2001    PDRA, Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University, UK.

1996 - 2000    PhD Oxford Research Unit, Open University, Oxford, UK

 

Committee membership:

ARVO Corneal Section

MRC Regenerative Medicine Research Committee 

ISER 2016 Corneal Session

EU COST Action BM1302 (Joining Forces in Corneal Regeneration Research)


Honorary positions:

Visiting Professor, University of Reading, UK

 

Group members: 

Dr. Ricardo Gouveia

Dr. Stephen Swioklo

Dr. Andrei Constantinescu

Dr. Fadhilah Zainal Abidin

Ms. Martina Miotto

Research

Research Interests:

 

Applying innovative bio-materials to regenerative medicine.

 

My research interests are linked by the hypothesis that combinatorial approaches to tissue formation are superior to individual stimulation. More specifically, successful tissue engineering approaches will be realised upon the proper spatial and temporal presentation of cells, signaling molecules, biomaterials, and mechanical stimulation. My research team seeks to engineer functional replacement and temporary 'bridge' tissues using a modular approach while also developing model systems to study physiological and pathophysiological corneal tissue formation.

 

The biotechnology industry is rapidly expanding and the evolving fields of tissue engineering and cell-based therapy are projected to have a high impact in regenerative medicine. In particular my lab is investigating the application of functionalized peptide/polymer water-based gels in these progressively merging fields. Using these jelly-like substances I aim to improve stem cell bioprocessing, storage (shipment) and subsequent engraftment. I am also employing the self-assembling property of these gels to create intelligent coatings that control the spatiotemporal positioning of stem cells to create bioprosthetic tissues with appropriate hierarchical structures suitable for a range of tissue replacement and wound healing therapies.

 

Recently we have begun to focus on the role tissue stiffness (compliance) plays in cell physiology in both engineered constructs and ocular surface homeostasis. This has brought about a new hypothesis underpinning epithelial differentiation and migration across the cornea with important implications for our current understanding of stem cell niche biology and corneal (limbal) stem cell therapy - of which my co-workers at the Institute of Genetic Medicine have considerable clinical expertise.

 

However, I also predict that the future of tissue engineering will not be limited to regenerative medicine. My lab is now starting to conceive of functional cell-based biological constructs engineered not for transplantation but for a specific biotechnological need. I have termed this 'super tissue engineering' i.e. the rational design of cell based constructs that have a limited but exceptional biotechnological function.

 

My research is largely funded by the UK research councils (BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC) as well as the DSTL, however I do accept a small number of self-funded PhD students with a keen interest and enthusiasm for cutting-edge tissue engineering projects across a range of structural tissues.

Publications