Alison P. McGuigan

AP McGuiganAssociate Professor
MEng. (Oxford), PhD (Toronto), Post-Doc (Harvard, Stanford)

Principal InvestigatorMcGuigan Lab and
BioZone – Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering

Room: WB338 | Tel.: 416-978-7552 | Email:


Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society
Biomaterials Society

Research Interests

Tissue engineering seeks to develop advanced health technologies to regenerate and model normal and diseased tissues. During natural tissue assembly and regeneration processes, cells are recruited and re-organized into a specific architecture. For example, during wound healing or regeneration replacement cells, often stem cells, are recruited and re-organized into a specific arrangement to generate new tissue. The functionality of the tissue depends critically on correct incorporation and re-organization of the cells during the regenerative process. Understanding how cell re-organization (termed morphogenesis) is regulated and how it can be controlled is a central problem in tissue engineering. In contrast, in diseases, such as cancer, cells in the tissue re-organize incorrectly as the disease spreads. Understanding cell re-organization therefore could also provide a basis for identifying novel disease therapies.

The objective of the McGuigan lab is to develop experimental systems to understand and control cellular morphogenesis tissue engineering applications.

Historically the signals that guide cell re-organization to produce tissue patterning have been studied extensively in animal models, in particular in embryos. The complexity of embryo morphogenesis and the interplay between multiple signals at multiple length scales make this a particularly challenging process to dissect however, and animal models often do not easily allow combinations of different signals to be perturbed systematically. In vitro models (cell culture models) that allow systematic analysis of the signals that direct cell re-organization would be extremely valuable for carefully dissecting the regulatory systems that control tissue morphogenesis. Furthermore, cell culture systems offer the potential for high-throughput screening to identify therapeutic strategies, such as drugs or biomaterials, for modulating and controlling the cell re-organization process in the context of diseases such as cancer.

In the McGuigan lab we are addressing the central question “How do cells make and coordinate architectural decisions in response to combinations of signaling cues?” Answering this question will fundamentally improve our understanding of embryo morphogenesis and other morphogenetic process such as wound healing, tissue regeneration, tissue integration, and tissue disorganization in disease. Applying this fundamental information will provide new therapeutic strategies for addressing problems in regenerative medicine such as engineering artificial tissues from stem cells, developing treatments for developmental diseases that result from incorrect tissue formation, and developing in vitro drug screening culture models to develop therapies for diseases like cancer or heart disease.

Selected Publications

Londono C, Lücker P, Loureiro JM, Soleas J, Slater B, Kabla A, McGuigan AP, Contact guidance behaviours of individual cells within confluent sheets cultured on nanogrooved substrates, Proc. Natl Acad Sci, USA 2014 ;111(5):1807-12

Javaherian S, Anesiadis N, Mahadevan R, McGuigan AP, Design principles for generating robust gene expression patterns in dynamic engineered tissues, Integrative Biology, 2013, 5 (3), 578 – 589

Paz, A.C., Javaherian, S., McGuigan, A.P., Tools for micropatterning epithelial cells into microcolonies on transwell filter substrates Lab on a Chip Lab Chip. 2011, 11(20):3440-8.

Javaherian, S., O’Donnell, K., McGuigan, A.P., A fast and accessible methodology for micro-patterning cells on standard culture substrates using ParafilmTM inserts, Plos ONE 2011, 6(6): e20909.