header-15
About Us

Dietmar Hutmacher

Dietmar Hutmacher

Positions

  • Professor, IHBI, QUT
  • Adjunct Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology (USA)

Contact Details

Phone
+61 7 3138 6077

Qualifications

  • PhD, The Development and Evaluation of Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering Applications, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 2001
  • MBA Royal Henley Management College, UK, 1999
  • BE (Biomedical Engineering), University for Applied Science of Aachen, Germany

Biography

Professor Dietmar W Hutmacher is a Professor at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation of QUT, where he leads the Regenerative Medicine Group, a multidisciplinary team of researchers including engineers, cell biologists, polymer chemists, clinicians, and veterinary surgeons. Professor Hutmacher is a multidisciplinary biomedical engineer, an educator, an inventor, and a creator of new intellectual property opportunities.

Prof Hutmacher is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine with expertise in commercialization. Prof Hutmacher was awarded a prestigious ARC Future Fellowship in 2012 and the Hans Fischer Senior Fellowship at the Technical University Munich in 2013 and holds an Adjunct appointment at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

Prof Hutmacher has supported a bone tissue engineering concept from the laboratory through to clinical application involving in vitro experiments, in vivo preclinical animal studies and ultimately clinical trials.

As a reflection of his pioneering ethos, his recent research efforts have resulted in traditional scientific/academic outputs as well as pivotal commercialisation outcomes.  He is one of very few academics in the field of biomaterials/tissue engineering who have taken a research programme from the holistic concept through to clinical application.

His pre-eminent international standing and impact on the field are illustrated by his publication record (more than 200 journal articles, edited 8 books, 50 book chapters and some 480 conference papers) and citation record (more than 9500 citations, h-index of 50). Three of his papers in Materials Science have received citations in the top 1% for the field, and he is also ranked by Thomas Reuters 45th world-wide in citations per paper (54 per paper) in Materials Science over the past decade.

Over the past 10 years in academia he has been lead CI, Co-CI or collaborator in grants totalling more than AUD$ 35 million. During the most recent 4 years in Australia, he has been an investigator on external grants totalling in excess of AUD$8 million. These grants have included ARC Discovery, ARC Linkage, ARC LIEF NHMRC Projects, NIH, and Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia awards.

Professor Hutmacher has successfully overcome some of the key challenges facing leaders in his field; namely to direct a team of interdisciplinary researchers in order to tackle research challenges that span the boundaries of traditional disciplines such as engineering and cell biology, and then to translate this research into clinical outcomes.

Read More ▼

Main Research Areas

Through a combination of academic and industrial experience, Professor Hutmacher has developed expertise in biomaterials, biomechanics, medical devices, and tissue engineering.

Regenerative medicine/tissue engineering is a rapidly growing multidisciplinary field involving the life, physical and engineering sciences and seeks to develop functional cell, tissue and organ substitutes to repair, replace or enhance biological function that has been lost due to congenital abnormalities, injury, disease or aging. It includes both the regeneration of tissues in vitro for subsequent implantation in vivo as well as regeneration directly in vivo. In addition to having a therapeutic application, tissue engineering can have a diagnostic application where the engineered tissue is used as a biosensor. Engineered tissues can also be used for the development of drugs including screening for novel drug candidates, identifying novel genes as drug targets, and testing for drug metabolism, uptake, and toxicity.

Research area 1: Bone tissue engineering

Clinical imperatives for new bone to replace or restore the function of traumatised bone or bone lost as a consequence of age or disease has led to the need for therapies or procedures to generate bone for skeletal applications. Bone tissue engineering concepts developed by the RM group promise to deliver specifiable replacement tissues and the prospect of efficacious alternative therapies for orthopaedic applications such as non-union fractures, healing of critical sized segmental defects and regeneration.

Research area 2: Establishment and Validation of Large Preclinical Animal Models

A key project for the Regenerative Medicine group has been to develop an animal model for bone repair research. While in the 20th century the dog model was mainly used for orthopaedic research, over the last decade the use of the sheep model has increased significantly. Adult sheep offer the advantage of having a body weight which is similar to humans and long bone dimensions suitable for the use of human implants and prostheses, which is not possible in smaller species such as rabbits or smaller breeds of dogs. The regenerative medicine group has established and fully characterised a critical-sized tibial defect model in sheep tibiae to evaluate different tissue engineering based treatment concepts. To our knowledge, we are the first group to establish this model in 7-8 year old sheep. It is only at this more advanced age that the sheep show secondary osteon formation in the bone, which is comparable to the structure of human bones. We have performed several studies with more than 100 surgeries in 2010 using this sheep tibia model.

Research area 3: Translation of Tissue Engineering Technology Platforms into Cancer Research

Biomedical researchers have become increasingly aware of the limitations of conventional 2D tissue cell cultures where most tissue cell studies have been carried out. They are now searching for 3D cell culture systems, something between a petri dish and a mouse. It has become apparent that 3D cell culture offers a more realistic micro- and local-environment where the functional properties of cells can be observed and manipulated that is not possible in animal experiments.

Nearly all tissue cells are embedded in 3-dimension (3D) microenvironment in the body. On the other hand, nearly all tissue cells including most cancer and tumour cells have been studied in 2-dimension (2D) petri dish, 2D multi-well plates or 2D glass slides coated with various substrata. The architecture of the in situ environment of a cell in a living organism is 3D, cells are surrounded by other cells, where many extracellular ligands including many types of collagens, laminin, and other matrix proteins, not only allow attachments between cells and the basal membrane but also allow access to oxygen, hormones, and nutrients; removal of waste products and other cell types associated in tissues. The in vivo environment of cells consists of a complex 3D network of extra-cellular matrix nano to micro fibres with micro to nanopores that create various local microenvironments.

Hence, there are several key drawbacks to 2D cell cultures. First, the movements of cells in the 3D environment of a whole organism typically follow a chemical signal or molecular gradient. Molecular gradients play a vital role in biological differentiation, determination of cell fate, organ development, signal transduction, neural information transmission and countless other biological processes. However, it is nearly impossible to establish a true 3D gradient in 2D culture.

Second, cells isolated directly from higher organisms frequently alter metabolism and alter their gene expression patterns when in 2D culture. It is clear that cellular structure plays a major role in determining cellular activity, though spatial and temporal extracellular matrix protein and cell receptor interactions that naturally exist in tissues and organs. The cellular membrane structure, the extracellular matrix and basement membrane significantly influences cellular metabolism, via the protein–protein interactions. The adaptation of cells to a 2D petri dish requires significant adjustment of the surviving cell population not only to changes in oxygen, nutrients and extracellular matrix interactions, but also to alter waste disposal.

Third, cells growing in a 2D environment can significantly alter production of their own extracellular matrix proteins and often undergo morphological changes. It is not unlikely that the receptors on cell surface could preferentially cluster on parts of the cell that directly expose to culture media rich in nutrients, growth factors and other extracellular ligands; whereas, the receptors on the cells attached to the surface may have less opportunity for clustering. Thus, the receptors might not be presented in correct orientation and clustering, this would presumably also affect communication between cells.

The development of new 3D culture systems, particularly those biologically inspired nanoscale scaffolds and/or hydrogels mimicking in vivo environment that serve as permissive substrates for cell growth, differentiation and biological function is a most actively pursuit area of the Hutmacher lab. These novel 3D culture systems will be useful not only for further our understanding of cell biology in a more physiological in vitro environment, but also for advancing cancer research, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Awards and grants

This list contains only the prostate cancer-related grants from Prof Hutmacher's wide range of project grants.

2011-2014 Australian Research Council Development and validation of virtual epithelial cancer models using an integrated modelling and experimental 3D approach Hutmacher D, Clements C, Nelson C, Nicol D
2011-2013 National Health & Medical Research Council KLK4 is a master regulator in prostate cancer progression and bone metastasis Clements J, Nelson C, Hutmacher D, Russell P, Overall C, Gorman J, Harris J
2011-2013 Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia PSA as a therapeutic target: an integrated systems biology approach to discover the pathways initiated by PSA activity in prostate cancer progression Clements J, Overall C, Gorman J, Hutmacher D, Nelson C
2011 ARC Comprehensive Cell Imaging Facility Clements J, McMillan N, Beagley K, Russell P, Nelson C, Hutmacher D, Atkinson, Dawson, Frazer, Gonda, Hooper, Levesque, McGuckin, Munster, Rice, Thomas
2010-2011 Cancer Council Queensland Understanding the functional role KLK4 in prostate cancer progression:  an integrated systems biology approach Clements J, Hutmacher D, Nelson C, Russell P, Risbridger G, Overall C, Harris J, et al
2008-2009 PCFA Application of a human bone engineering platform to an in vivo prostate cancer model Hutmacher D, Clements J, Nelson C, Nicol D

Research interests

biomaterials, biomechanics, medical devices, tissue engineering, bone tissue engineering, development of large preclinical animal models, and 3D cell cultures

Current research projects

Biomarkers

  • Understanding the functional role of KLK4 in prostate cancer progression:  an integrated systems biology approach
  • The PSA-related protease KLK4 is a master regulator in prostate cancer progression and bone metastasis


Therapeutics

  • PSA as a therapeutic target:  an integrated systems biology approach to discover the pathways initiated by PSA activity in prostate cancer progression
  • Development and validation of virtual epithelial cancer models using an integrated modelling and experimental 3D approach

Top publications