Research in the group led by Pamela Habibovic revolves around the development of smart, instructive biomaterials for regenerative medicine. The group is recognized worldwide for their work on synthetic biomaterials that can successfully replace a patient’s own bone, in treating clinically challenging bone defects. They have developed calcium phosphate-based materials that can control the stem cell fate, by tweaking the chemical and structural properties of their surface. By doing so, they developed synthetic biomaterials that are able to initiate regeneration of large bone defects in the body. This seminal and highly multidisciplinary work contributed to the development of a product for spinal fusion surgery that is now clinically used in over 30.000 patients worldwide, directly impacting society with their experimental findings.
Current work of Habibovic and her team uses high content screening techniques such as advanced proteomics to understand the mechanisms between biomaterials and their biological environment. They are using these mechanisms as a basis for design of new materials, which is a paradigm change in the field of biomaterials that until now was still largely driven by the possibilities (and limitations) of the available production methods. The group is also exploring various techniques to develop new instructive biomaterials, ranging from biomimetic approaches (i.e. biomineralization) to fully synthetic ones.
Recognizing the traditional empirical approach to biomaterials as a bottleneck, they are also developing methods based on microfluidics, microtechnology and combinatorial chemistry, with the specific aim to produce new biomaterials and study cell-biomaterial interactions in a more physiological-like environment and a high-throughput manner. Unique for their research is the fact that they not only employ the tools from other fields, such as micro- and nanotechnology, to advance the field of biomaterials, but also that many of materials and platforms developed in their group can be applied in other fields, such as for the development of (on-chip) organ- and disease models.