Christopher Gribbon's Research Page

Engineering peptide scaffolds

Previous work

I received my BSc (Hons.) in Cell Biology from the University of Glasgow, before moving to Dundee University to achieve my PhD in the Biochemistry department. My PhD was titled "Cell Death and Differentiation in the Ocular Lens" and concerned the differentiation of lens fibre cells, and also the action of soluble and insoluble factors in providing resistance to apoptosis for lens cells 1-3.

After completing my PhD, I began a Postdoctoral post in DUTEC (Dundee University Tissue Engineering Centre), investigating cell migration, cytokine response, and polymeric scaffolds for vascular tissue engineering 4,5.

In Bristol, I am continuing my work on tissue engineering, developing peptide-based scaffolds for cartilage growth in vitro.

Current work

Tissue Engineering is a novel field, concerned with "growing" tissues and organs in vitro 6. To accomplish this, cells are cultured within a three-dimensional scaffold, which supports them and signals them to adopt a phenotype appropriate to the tissue being grown. The cells then synthesise their own matrix, and break down the existing scaffold.

Peptide-based scaffolds hold great promise for tissue engineering, as they are composed of natural subunits, and can easily be "functionalised" with appropriate amino acid motifs to provide the correct stimuli for the supported cells 7,8.

The lab has previously elucidated the "rules" for fibre-forming, alpha-helical coiled-coil peptides, which self-assemble into fibres that are tens of microns long 9.

A Transmission Electron Micrograph of coiled-coil fibres

Transmission Electron Micrograph of coiled-coil fibres. Scalebar 2μm.

I am developing a variety of designs of such self-assembling peptide scaffolds, to act as a matrix for the growth of cells in tissue engineering. The fibres are being optimised for assembly in tissue culture conditions, and investigated for the potential for functionalisation. Our particular current focus is on cartilage tissue engineering 10.


1: Dahm, R., Gribbon, C., Quinlan, R.A. & Prescott, A.R. "Changes in the nucleolar and coiled body compartments precede lamina and chromatin reorganization during fibre cell denucleation in the bovine lens." European Journal of Cell Biology 75, 237 - 246 [1998]

2: Dahm, R., Gribbon, C., Quinlan, R.A. & Prescott, A.R. "Lens cell organelle loss during differentiation versus stress-induced apoptotic changes." Biochemical Society Transactions 25, S584 - S584 [1997]

3: Tholozan, F., Gribbon, C., Quinlan, R. & Prescott, A. "The lens capsule protection against apoptogens is cell specific." Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 44, 1228 [2003]

4: Gribbon, C., Donnelly, K., Keatch, R. & Schor, S. "Cellular Reaction to Topographical Stimuli within a Three-Dimensional Extracellular Matrix Milieu." in Regenerate 2004 (ed. Initiative, P.T.E.) 084 [Omnipress, Seattle, WA, 2004]

5: Donnelly, K. et al. "Microengineering of Novel 3-D In-Vitro Assays to Study Complex Biological Systems." in Regenerate 2004 (ed. Initiative, P.T.E.) 024 [Omnipress, Seattle, WA, 2004]

6: Evans, G.R.D. Preface: Tissue engineering. Clinics in Plastic Surgery 30, xiii-xiv [2003]

7: Hubbell, J.A. Bioactive biomaterials. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 10, 123-129 [1999]

8: Zhang, S. "Emerging biological materials through molecular self-assembly." Biotechnology Advances 20, 321-339 [2002]

9: Pandya, M.J. et al. "Sticky-End Assembly of a Designed Peptide Fiber Provides Insight into Protein Fibrillogenesis." Biochemistry 39, 8728 - 8734 [2000]

10: Kuoa, C.K., Lia, W.-J., Maucka, R.L. & Tuan, R.S. "Cartilage tissue engineering: its potential and uses." Current Opinion in Rheumatology 18, 64-73 [2006]