Prof. O'Brien's research focuses on the development of natural polymer (such as collagen) scaffold-based therapeutics for tissue engineering with target applications in bone, cartilage, cardiovascular, corneal, respiratory and neural tissues.
A major focus of ongoing research has been to functionalise these scaffolds for use as delivery systems for biomolecules with a particular interest in the delivery of nucleic acids (pDNA, siRNA and microRNA) to enhance their therapeutic potential. His group also focuses on the use of these scaffolds as advanced 3D pathophysiology in vitro systems for drug development and for studying cellular crosstalk in co-cultures and understanding disease states in cancer, angiogenesis, immunology and infection. In addition, he has a major interest in studying the response of living cells to mechanical stimuli (mechanobiology) and using biophysical stimuli (applied by bioreactors or controlled by scaffold stiffness) to regulate stem cell differentiation. A number of technologies from his lab have been patented resulting in the spin out from his lab in 2011 of a high potential start-up, SurgaColl TechnologiesThe first product from the group commercialised by SurgaColl, HydroxyColl, a collagen-hydroxyapatite bone graft substitute received regulatory approval (CE mark) in Nov. 2015 and is currently in clinical use. A second technology a multi-layered scaffold for cartilage repair, is expected to enter clinical trials in 2017.
Recent news from the Tissue Engineering Research Group can be found here.