The Polymers & Peptides Research Group was established at The University of Manchester in 2004 by Profs. Aline F. Miller and Alberto Saiani. The group spans accroos Faculties, Department of Chemical Engineering and Division of Phamracy and Optometry and is based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB). 

Prof. Aline F. Miller 

Prof. Alberto Saiani

The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester

Faculty of Science and Engineering Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health
School of Engineering School of Health Sciences

Department of Chemical Engineering 

Division of Pharmacy and Optometry

Manchester Insitutute of Biotechnology Manchester Insitutute of Biotechnology

Prof. Saiani ORCID
Prof. Saiani ORCID

Research in the Polymers & Peptides Research Group is centred around the characterisation of polymer, biopolymer and peptide materials across the length scales, both in the bulk and at fluid surfaces. In particular research focuses on the understanding of the chemical architecture - thermodynamic - structure - physical property correlations in complex systems to achieve process and product control.

Over the past 10 years the group has extended its activities into the biomedical field, in particular into the creation of 3-dimensional hydrogel scaffolds by controlling the self-assembly of proteins and de novo designed short peptides for regenerative medical applications. Understanding the self-assembly process has allowed the sophistication of these scaffolds to be enhanced via controlled introduction of functionalisation and responsiveness by conjugating the peptides to pH and temperature responsive polymers. 

The work in the field of self-assembling peptide hydrogel (SAPH) scaffolds has led in 2013 in the co-founding by Profs Miller and Saiani of a start-up named PeptiGel Design and subsequently Manchester BIOGEL dedicated to the commercialisation of a family of SAPHs scaffolds for the 3D cell culture market. After 10 years, in 2023, the technology was taken-on by Cell Guidance Systems which now commercialised the SAPH scaffolds as PeptiGels®

Research Themes:

Proteins & Peptides: from self assembly to functional biomaterials Papers

Our group is working towards understanding the fundamental link between building block structure, mesoscopic structure, material properties and cell response of self assembling oligopeptides. This work brings a fundamental understanding of self-assembly and gelation processes that enables effective material design. Consequently we are able to direct the morphology (e.g.: fiber size, porosity, roughness) and mechanical properties (e.g.: modulus, viscosity) of our materials and tailor them to specific application needs. In particular we are elucidating the molecular drivers for ß-sheet forming peptide self-assembly across the length scales by synthesising short peptides with different amino acid sequences to systematically examine the effect of hydrophobicity, charge distribution and amino acid size/type. We are also fully characterising the structure and properties of the functional self-assembled networks and exploring their potential for therapeutic and clinical application. 

Example of projects:

Recent publications:

Protocol for the growth and maturation of hiPSC-derived kidney organoids using mechanically defined hydrogels; I. Krupa, N.J. Treacy, S. Clerkin, J.L. Davis, A.F. Miller, A. Saiani, J.K. Wychowaniec, E.G. Reynaud, D.F. Brougham, J. CreanCurrent Protocols in press (2024)

Effect of peptide-polymer host-guest electrostatic interactions on self-assembling peptide hydrogels structural and mechanical properties and polymer diffusivity; S. Dong, S. Chapman, A. Pluen, S. Richardson, A.F. Miller,  A. SaianiBiomacromolecules in press (2024)

Optimising a self-assembling peptide hydrogel as a Matrigel alternative for 3-dimensional mammary epithelial cell culture; E. Lingard, S. Dong, A. Hoyle, E. Appleton, A. Hales, E. Skaria, C. Lawless, I. Taylor-Hearn, S. Saadati, Q. Chu, A.F. Miller, M. Domingos, A. Saiani, J. Swift, A.P. GilmoreBiomaterials Advances, 213847 (2024)

Intracerebral administration of a novel self-assembling peptide hydrogel is safe and supports cell proliferation in experimental intracerebral haemorrhage; F. Bolan; B.R. Dickie, J.R. Cook, J.M. Thomas, E. Pinteaux, S.M. Allan, A. Saiani, C.B. LawrenceTranslational Stroke Research, s12975-023-01189-7 (2023)

Evaluation of a synthetic peptide-based bioink (PeptiInk Alpha 1) for in vitro 3D bioprinting of cartilage tissue models; N. Santos-Beato, A.A. Pitsillides, A. Saiani, A.F. Miller, R. Torii, D.M. KalaskarInternational Journal of Bioprinting, 9, 450-465 (2023)

Growth and differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived kidney organoids using fully synthetic peptide hydrogels; N.J. Treacy, S. Clerkin, J.L. Davis, C. Kennedy, A.F. Miller, A. Saiani, J.K. Wychowaniec, D.F. Brougham, J. CreanBioactive Materials, 21, 142-156 (2023)

Hydrogels from the co-assembly of SAA/elastin-inspired peptides reveal non-canonical nanotopology; A. Scelsi, B. Bochicchio, A. M. Smith, A. Laezza, A. Saiani, A. PepeMolecules, 27, 7901 (2022)

Advancing Our Understanding of the Chronically Denervated Schwann Cell: A Potential Therapeutic Target? L.A. McMorrow, A. Kosalko, D. Robinson, A. Saiani, A.J. Reid, Biomolecules, 12, 1128 (2022)

Controlling doxorubicin release from peptide hydrogel through fine-tuning drug-peptide fibre interactions; M.A. Elsawy, J.K. WychowaniecL.A. Castillo-DiazA.M. Smith, A.F. Miller, A Saiani; Biomacromolecules, 23, 2624-2634 (2022)

Self-assembling Peptide Hydrogels as Functional Tools to Tackle Intervertebral Disc Degeneration; C. Ligorio, J.A. Hoyland, A Saiani; Gels, 8, 211 (2022)

Substrate Stiffness-Driven Membrane Tension 2 Modulates Vesicular Trafficking via Caveolin‑1; D. Lachowski, C. Matellan, S. Gopal, E. Cortes, B.K. Robinson, A. Saiani, A.F. Miller, M.M. Stevens, A.E. del Río Hernández; ACS Nano, 16, 3, 4322–4337 (2022)

Acidic and Basic Self-Assembling Peptide and Peptide-Graphene Oxide Hydrogels: Characterisation and Effect on Encapsulated Nucleus Pulposus Cells; C. Ligorio, A. Vijayaraghavan, J.A. Hoyland, A. Saiani; Acta Biomaterialia, 143, 145-158 (2022)

Quantitative nanomechanical properties evaluation of a family of β-sheet peptide fibres using rapid bimodal AFM; J.K. Wychowaniec, J. Moffat, A. Saiani; Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 124, 104776 (2021)

Self-Assembling Polypeptide Hydrogels as a Platform to Recapitulate the Tumor Microenvironment; D. Lachowski, C. Matellan, E. Cortes, A. Saiani, A.F. Miller, A.E. del Río Hernández;  Cancers, 13, 3286 (2021)

Neutrally charged self-assembling peptide hydrogel recapitulates in vitro mechanisms of breast cancer progression; H.C. Clough, M. O’Brien, X. Zhu, A.F. Miller, A. Saiani, O. Tsigkou; Materials Science & Engineering: C, 127, 112200 (2021)

TGF-β3-loaded Graphene Oxide - Self-assembling Peptide Hybrid Hydrogels as Functional 3D Scaffolds for the Regeneration of the Nucleus Pulposus; C. Ligorio, M. O’Brien, N.W. Hodson, A. Mironov, M. Iliut, A.F. Miller, A. Vijayaraghavan, J.A. Hoyland ,A. Saiani; Acta Biomaterialia, 127, 116-130 (2021)

Functionalised Peptide Hydrogel for the delivery of Cardiac Progenitor Cells K.A. Burgess, C. Frati, K. Meade, J. Gao, L. Castillo Diaz, D. Madeddu, G. Graiani, S. Cavalli, A.F. Miller, D. Oceandy, F. Quaini, A. Saiani; Materials Science & Engineering: C, 119, 111539 (2021)

Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogels - PeptiGels® as a Platform for Hepatic Organoid Culture, A.Olayanju; A.F. Miller; T. Ansari; C.E. Goldring; bioRxiv Preprint (2021)

Modelling the 3D bioprinting process of β-sheet self-assembling peptide hydrogel scaffolds; J. Chiesa, C. Ligorio, A.F. Bonatti, A. De Acutis, A.M. Smith, A. Saiani, G. Vozzi, C. De Maria; Frontiers in Medical Technology, 2, 571626 (2020)

Role of sheet-edge interactions in beta-sheet self-assembling peptide hydrogels; J.K. Wychowaniec, A.M. Smith, C. Ligorio, O.O. Mykhaylyk, A.F. Miller, A. Saiani; Biomacromolecules, 21, 2285-2297 (2020)

Characterising and controlling the properties of polymeric materials Papers

This research work focuses on the characterisation of polymeric materials across the length scales. In particular we are interested in understanding the chemical architecture - thermodynamic - structure - physical property correlations in complex polymeric systems with the aim to control and tailor materials properties to specific applications. This work encompasses a variety of polymeric materials including: polyurethanes elastomers, poly(methyl methacrylate) gels, polyolefin and poly(lactic-co-glycolic) acid copolymers.

Example of projects:

Recent publications:

Thermal, Mechanical, and Morphological Characterisations of Graphene Nanoplatelet/Graphene Oxide/High-Hard-Segment Polyurethane Nanocomposite: A Comparative Study; M. Albozahid, H.Z. Naji, Z.K. Alobad, J. Wychowaniec, A. Saiani; Polymers, 14, 4224 (2022)

Synthesis and Characterisation of Hard Copolymer Polyurethane/ Functionalised Graphene Nanocomposites: Investigation of Morphology, Thermal Stability and Rheological Properties; M. Albozahid, H.Z. Naji, Z.K. Alobad, J. Wychowaniec, A. Saiani; Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 139, e53118 (2022)

Study on the effect of tailoring the hard copolymer polyurethane on the thermal, mechanical and electrical properties of hard copolymer polyurethane / multi-walledcarbon nanotubes nanocompositess; M. Albozahid, H.Z. Naji, Z.K. Alobad, A. Saiani; Journal of Composite Materials 56, 1467-1480 (2022)

TPU nanocomposites tailored by graphene nanoplatelets: the investigation of dispersion approaches and annealing treatment on thermal and mechanical properties; M. Albozahid, H.Z. Naji, Z.K. Alobad, A. Saiani; Polymer Bulletin, Online (2021)

Analysis of the Foaming Window for Thermoplastic Polyurethane with Different Hard Segment Contents; M. Santiago-Calvo,H. Naji, V. Bernardo, J. Martín-de León, A. Saiani, F. Villafañe, M.A. Rodriguez-Perez; Polymers, 13, 3143 (2021)

Effect of the Molecular Structure of TPU on the Cellular Structure of Nanocellular Polymers Based on PMMA/TPU Blends; I. Sánchez-Calderón, V. Bernardo, M. Santiago-Calvo, H. Naji, A. Saiani, M.A. Rodriguez-Perez; Polymers, 13, 3055 (2021)

Enhanced Mechanical, Crystallisation and Thermal Properties of Graphene Flake-filled Polyurethane Nanocomposites: The Impact of Thermal Treatment on the Resulting Microphase-separated Structure; M. Albozahid, H.Z. Naji, Z.K. Alobad, A. Saiani; Journal of Polymer Research, 28, 302 (2021)

Effect of OMMT reinforcement on morphology and rheology properties of polyurethane copolymer nanocomposites; M. Albozahid, H.Z. Naji, Z.K. Alobad, A. Saiani; Journal of Elastomers & Plastics, 00952443211006160 (2021)

The impact of graphene nanofiller loading on the morphology and rheology behaviour of highly rigid polyurethane copolymer; M. Albozahid, S.A. Habeeb, N.A.I. Alhilo, A. Saiani; Materials Research Express, 7, 125304 (2020)

Group sponsors (past and present):


Manchester BIOGEL


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© A. Saiani                                                                                                                 last update: 10 June 2024

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