Staff Profile:Dr Che Connon
- Team Leader for Tissue Engineering and Cell Therapy Laboratory. Current team members include: Dr Ricardo Gouveia, Dr Stephen Swioklo and Dr Fadhilah Zainal Abidin
- Director of Post Graduate Studies and Progression
- School Website Support Officer
- Theme Leader, Smart Materials and Regenerative Therapies
Diseases affecting the cornea are a major cause of blindness worldwide. Current treatments are limited by availability of donor tissue. Over the next 5 years we aim to apply both basic and applied research to improve corneal stem cell isolation and characterisation as well as providing novel therapeutic stem cell delivery systems using natural and synthetic hydrogels.
- Areas of Interest:
Research in the Connon laboratory is primarily in the area of corneal tissue engineering. Within our research program, we seek to engineer functional replacement and temporary 'bridge' tissues while also developing model systems to study physiological and pathophysiological corneal tissue formation.
All projects in the lab 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, signalling molecules, biomaterials, and mechanical stimulation.
The biotechnology industry is rapidly expanding and the emerging field of tissue engineering and cell based therapy are projected to have a high impact in regenerative medicine. In particular we are investigating the application of hydrogels in this field. However, we also predict that the future of tissue engineering will not be limited to regenerative medicine. We are now starting to concieve of functional cell-based biological constructs engineered for not for transplantation but for a specific biotechnological need. We have termed this 'super tissue engineering' i.e. the design of cell based constructs that have a limited but exceptional biotechnological function.
Presently the group consists of 3 PDRA's, 2 PhD students and an ophthalmic clinical fellow funded mainly by Research Council grants. Currently we have MRC funding to develop a process to improve the corneal surface prior to stem cell transplantation. We also have BBSRC grants to develop smart/intelligent hydrogels for wound healing and templates that control the spatiotemporal positioning of stem cells to create a bioprosthetic cornea. Finally we have BBSRC/EPSRC funding to develop hydrogels capable of storing stem cells at ambient temperature
We believe commercialisation, IP and the basic research underpinning a new wave of regenerative medicines are intertwined and as such we are actively involved in ensuring the UK competes globally by maintaining its competitive edge in the regenerative medicine space. We are actively searching for complimentary partners to commercialise our work or further our basic understanding around these topics:
- Tissue engineering of the cornea, including a stem cell based oculotoxicity tests.
- Developing model systems to study physiological and pathophysiological corneal tissue formation using synthetic and biological hydrogels.
- Developing smart cell-instructive biomaterials to control cell growth/differentiation.
- Use of hydrogels for the storage or distribution of stem cells non-cryogenically
Current Research Funding:
- EPSRC PhD project (2010 - 2014) "Polymeric hydrogels for corneal stem cells"
- BBSRC PhD project (2010 - 2014) "Trans-epithelial dug delivery via the cornea"
- BBSRC Project grant (2011 - 2014) "Smart materials to direct production of Bioprosthetic cornea"
- MRC Project grant (2013 - 2016) "Modulation of niche stiffness to regulate cell differentiation"
- BBSRC/EPSRC (2013 - 2016) "Bioprocessing Resaerch Industrial Club - Scaling up of cell storage technology"
Past Research funding:
- BBSRC Project grant (2008 - 2011) "A tissue engineered corneal epithelium replacement for animal testing using human stem cells"
- MRC Project grant (2010 - 2012) "Therapeutic corneal stem cell delivery using hydrogels without the need for ex vivo expansion"
- BBSRC/EPSRC BRIC project (2011 - 2012) "Stoarge and distribution of stem cells"
- BBSRC pilot grant (2012 - 2013) "Smart materials for ocular and skin wound healing"
- Visiting Professor, Shaanxi Ophthalmic Research Center, Xi'an Eye Hospital, China.
- Member of AMPM Corneal section for Association for Research In Vision and Ophthalmology
- Member of Executive Committee for Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science UK Alumni
- Member of Editorial Board of PLoS ONE
- Member of Editorial Board of Nature: Scientific Reports
- Stem Cell Inc (UK)
- Research groups / Centres:
YNumber of items: 31.
- Gouveia, R. M., Jones, R. R., Hamley, I. W. and Connon, C. J. (2014) The bioactivity of composite Fmoc-RGDS-collagen gels. Biomaterials Science, 2 (9). pp. 1222-1229. ISSN 2047-4830 doi: 10.1039/c4bm00121d
- Castelletto, V., Gouveia, R., Connon, C., Hamley, I., Seitsonen, J., Nykänen, A. and Ruokolainen, J. (2014) Alanine-rich amphiphilic peptide containing the RGD cell adhesion motif: a coating material for human fibroblast attachment and culture. Biomaterials Science, 3. pp. 352-361. ISSN 2047-4830 doi: 10.1039/c3bm60232j
- Castelletto, V., Gouveia, R. J., Connon, C. J., Hamley, I. W., Seitsonen, J., Ruokolainen, J., Longo, E. and Siligardi, G. (2014) Influence of elastase on alanine-rich peptide hydrogels. Biomaterials Science, 2 (6). pp. 867-874. ISSN 2047-4830 doi: 10.1039/c4bm00001c
- Xiao, X., Pan, S., Liu, X., Zhu, X., Connon, C. J., Wu, J. and Mi, S. (2013) In vivo study of the biocompatibility of a novel compressed collagen hydrogel scaffold for artificial corneas. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 102 (6). pp. 1782-1787. ISSN 1549-3296 doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.34848
- Castelletto, V., Gouveia, R., Connon, C. and Hamley, I. (2013) New RGD-peptide amphiphile mixtures containing a negatively charged diluent. Faraday Discussions, 166. pp. 381-397. ISSN 1364-5498 doi: 10.1039/c3fd00064h
- Castelletto, V., Gouveia, R. J., Connon, C. J. and Hamley, I. W. (2013) Self-assembly and bioactivity of a polymer/peptide conjugate containing the RGD cell adhesion motif and PEG. European Polymer Journal, 49 (10). pp. 2961-2967. ISSN 0014-3057 doi: 10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2013.02.016
- Jones, R. R., Castelletto, V., Connon, C. J. and Hamley, I. W. (2013) Collagen stimulating effect of peptide amphiphile C16−KTTKS on human fibroblasts. Molecular Pharmaceutics, 10 (3). pp. 1063-1069. ISSN 1543-8392 doi: 10.1021/mp300549d
- Chen, B., Wright, B., Sahoo, R. and Connon, C. J. (2013) A novel alternative to cryopreservation for the short-term storage of stem cells for use in cell therapy using alginate encapsulation. Tissue Engineering Part C : methods, 19 (7). pp. 568-576. ISSN 1937-3384 doi: 10.1089/ten.tec.2012.0489
- Gouveia, R. M., Castelletto, V., Alcock, S. G., Hamley, I. W. and Connon, C. J. (2013) Bioactive films produced from self-assembling peptide amphiphiles as versatile substrates for tuning cell adhesion and tissue architecture in serum-free conditions. Journal of Materials Chemistry B, 1 (44). pp. 6157-6169. ISSN 0959-9428 doi: 10.1039/C3TB21031F
- Morrison, P. W.J., Connon, C. J. and Khutoryanskiy, V. V. (2013) Cyclodextrin-mediated enhancement of riboflavin solubility and corneal permeability. Molecular Pharmaceutics, 10 (2). pp. 756-762. ISSN 1543-8392 doi: 10.1021/mp3005963
- Wright, B., De Bank, P. A., Luetchford, K. A., Acosta, F. R. and Connon, C. J. (2013) Oxidized alginate hydrogels as niche environments for corneal epithelial cells. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 102 (10). pp. 3393-3400. ISSN 1549-3296 doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.35011
- Wright, B., Mi, S. and Connon, C. J. (2013) Towards the use of hydrogels in the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency. Drug Discovery Today, 18 (1-2). pp. 79-86. ISSN 1359-6446 doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2012.07.012
- Gouveia, R. M. and Connon, C. (2013) The effects of retinoic acid on human corneal stromal keratocytes cultured in vitro under serum-free conditions. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 54 (12). pp. 7483-7491. ISSN 0146-0404 doi: 10.1167/iovs.13-13092
- Wright, B., Hopkinson, A., Leyland, M. and Connon, C. J. (2013) The secretome of alginate-encapsulated limbal epithelial stem cells modulates corneal epithelial cell proliferation. PLoS ONE, 8 (7). e70860. ISSN 1932-6203 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070860
- Chen, B., Jones, R. R., Mi, S., Foster, J., Alcock, S., Hamley, I. and Connon, C. (2012) The mechanical properties of amniotic membrane influence its effect as a biomaterial for ocular surface repair. Soft Matter, 8 (32). pp. 8379-8387. ISSN 1744-683X doi: 10.1039/C2SM26175H
- Castelletto, V., Hamley, I. W., Stain, C. and Connon, C. (2012) Slow-release RGD-peptide hydrogel monoliths. Langmuir, 28 (34). pp. 12575-12580. ISSN 0743-7463 doi: 10.1021/la302071e
- Feng, Y., Foster, J., Mi, S., Chen, B. and Connon, C. (2012) Influence of substrate on corneal epithelial cell viability within ocular surface models. Experimental Eye Research, 101. pp. 97-103. ISSN 0014-4835 doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2012.05.005
- Castelletto, V., Cheng, G., Stain, C., Connon, C. and Hamley, I. (2012) Self-assembly of a peptide amphiphile containing l-carnosine and its mixtures with a multilamellar vesicle forming lipid. Langmuir, 28 (31). pp. 11599-11608. ISSN 0743-7463 doi: 10.1021/la302210b
- Wright, B., Cave, R. A., Cook, J. P., Khutoryanskiy, V. V., Mi, S., Chen, B., Leyland, M. and Connon, C. J. (2012) Enhanced viability of corneal epithelial cells for efficient transport/storage using a structurally-modified calcium alginate hydrogel. Regenerative Medicine, 7 (3). pp. 295-307. ISSN 1746-076X doi: 10.2217/rme.12.7
- Jones, R. R., Hamley, I. and Connon, C. (2012) Ex vivo expansion of limbal stem cells is affected by substrate properties. Stem Cell Research, 8 (3). pp. 403-409. ISSN 1876-7753 doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2012.01.001
- Cave, R., Cook, J., Connon, C. J. and Khutoryanskiy, V. V. (2012) A flow system for the on-line quantitative measurement of the retention of dosage forms on biological surfaces using spectroscopy and image analysis. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 428 (1-2). pp. 96-102. ISSN 0378-5173 doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2012.02.047
- Mi, S., David, A. L., Chowdhury, B., Jones, R. R., Hamley, I., Squires, A. and Connon, C. J. (2012) Tissue engineering a fetal membrane. Tissue Engineering Part A, 18 (3-4). pp. 373-381. ISSN 2152-4955 doi: 10.1089/ten.tea.2011.0194
- Mi, S., Khutoryanskiy, V. V., Jones, R. R., Zhu, X., Hamley, I. W. and Connon, C. J. (2011) Photochemical cross-linking of plastically compressed collagen gel produces an optimal scaffold for corneal tissue engineering. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 99A (1). pp. 1-8. ISSN 1549-3296 doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.33152
- Cheng, G., Castelletto, V., Jones, R. R., Connon, C. J. and Hamley, I. W. (2011) Hydrogelation of self-assembling RGD-based peptides. Soft Matter, 7 (4). pp. 1326-1333. ISSN 1744-683X doi: 10.1039/C0SM00408A
- Mi, S., Chen, B., Wright, B. and Connon, C. J. (2010) Plastic compression of a collagen gel forms a much improved scaffold for ocular surface tissue engineering over conventional collagen gels. Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 95A (2). pp. 447-453. ISSN 1549-3296 doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.32861
- Chen, B., Mi, S., Wright, B. and Connon, C. J. (2010) Differentiation status of limbal epithelial cells cultured on intact and denuded amniotic membrane before and after air-lifting. Tissue Engineering, 16 (9). pp. 2721-2729. ISSN 1937-3341
- Connon, C. J., Doutch, J., Chen, B., Hopkinson, A., Mehta, J., Nakamura, T., Kinoshita, S. and Meek, K. (2010) The variation in transparency of amniotic membrane used in ocular surface regeneration. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 94 (8). pp. 1057-1061. ISSN 0007-1161 doi: 10.1136/bjo.2008.153064
- Mi, S., Chen, B., Wright, B. and Connon, C. J. (2010) Ex Vivo Construction of an Artificial Ocular Surface by Combination of Corneal Limbal Epithelial Cells and a Compressed Collagen Scaffold Containing Keratocytes. Tissue Engineering, 16 (6). pp. 2091-2100. ISSN 1937-3341 doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2009.0748
- Chen, B., Mi, S., Wright, B. and Connon, C. J. (2010) Investigation of K14/K5 as a stem cell marker in the limbal region of the bovine cornea. PLoS ONE, 5 (10). e13192. ISSN 1932-6203 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013192
- Connon, C. J., Nakamura, T., Hopkinson, A., Quantock, A., Yagi, N., Doutch, J. and Meek, K. M. (2007) The biomechanics of amnion rupture: an X-ray diffraction study. PLoS ONE, 2 (11). e1147. ISSN 1932-6203 doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001147
- Ma, A., Boulton, M., Zhao, B., Connon, C., Cai, J. and Albon, J. (2007) A role for Notch signaling in human corneal epithelial cell differentiation and proliferation. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 48 (8). pp. 3576-3585. ISSN 0146-0404 doi: 10.1167/iovs.06-1373
!Self funded PhD studentships now avialable!
- "Improved isolation, characterisation and delivery of adult stem cells for corneal repair"
- "Novel biomaterials for corneal tissue engineering"
If you have the correct qualifications and access to your own funding, either from your home country or your own finances, your application to work on these or similar projects will be considered.