ERRA Project – Elastomeric scaffolds for soft tissue Replacement, Regeneration and Augmentation

Soft tissue replacement, repair and augmentation are typical topics of reconstructive plastic surgery, which is done to correct facial and body abnormalities. Usually, the goal of reconstructive plastic surgery is to improve body function. However, reconstructive plastic surgery may also be applied to create a more normal appearance and improve self-esteem. Abnormal structures of the body may result from injury, infection, developmental abnormalities, birth defects, disease, tumours or aging. The social and economic costs of reconstructive plastic surgery continuously increase. Thus, the invention of innovative technologies to improve the efficacy of surgery and reduce side effects and overcome the main limitations of traditional implants becomes crucial. To this aim, several engineering fields can be employed to create possible solutions that merge different aspects of product research and development. Within this scenario, the availability of scaffolds that mimic native tissues and structures and aim at promoting cell adhesion and tissue growth is a challenge to be pursued.

Research Proposal
ERRA project aims at providing engineering tools for the design of patient-specific and application-specific elastomeric scaffolds for the optimal replacement, regeneration and augmentation of soft biological tissues, with particular regard to adipose tissues. Different actions are planned to achieve this goal: coupled medical and engineering approach for the identification of biomechanical and biochemical requirements; coupled 3D CAD, finite element and artificial intelligence techniques for designing scaffold outer and inner conformations and material properties; coupled manufacturing and biochemical techniques for scaffold prototyping and bulk material and surfaces functionalization; scaffold validation by means of mechanical, biocompatibility and bioactivity testing.

Exploitation of ERRA project results will lead to increase the efficacy of devices for softs tissue replacements, regeneration and augmentation, which are frequently used in reconstructive plastic surgery, and to reduce side effects. In line with Horizon Europe guidelines, the ERRA project results will have strong social impact, considering the number of patients that require and undergo to plastic reconstructive surgery. The availability of scaffolds that enhance replacement, regeneration and augmentation actions will optimize surgery, will reduce healing time and will improve the results of the intervention. In this sense, ERRA project will decrease National Healthcare System effort and significantly increase patient quality of life.

The further impact of ERRA project pertains to the consolidation of a research team within the Centre for Mechanics of Biological Materials, Universities, enterprises and healthcare structures.