Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London and A*STAR PhD Studentship: 3D printing the human hair follicle
Primary culture systems of human hair follicles have been widely used to investigate fundamental aspects of human hair follicle biology and hair disease. However, several limitations: including limited access to freshly isolated human tissue and the technical difficulty in isolating hair follicles from skin biopsies have made these models harder for groups to access. To address this we have pioneered the development of immortalised dermal papilla cell lines from balding and non-balding human scalp and in collaboration with A* have published 2 papers describing these cells. More recently we have shown (unpublished data) that these cell lines are able to regulate expression of human hair specific keratins in epidermal keratinocytes. These cells therefore represent an excellent basis on which to develop 3D models of both balding and non-balding hair follicles.
The proposal outlined below seeks to generate a next generation hair follicle model using our immortalised lines and epidermal keratinocytes. As a first step towards achieving this goal, the proposed studentship aims to establish a novel 3D bio-printed model of the human hair follicle and investigate how the patterning of distinct dermal cell types influences the structure and function of engineered tissues. This interdisciplinary project will take advantage of a new state-of-the-art 3D Bioprinting facility within the Blizard Institute.
The CRoss-InstitutE Advanced Tissue Engineering (CREATE) Lab is a new core facility dedicated to bio fabrication of advanced 3D tissues and microfluidic devices. It houses state-of-the-art equipment for 3D bio-printing, microfabrication, and device analysis. The aim of the CREATE Lab is to support the development of next-generation 3D tissues and disease models for use in biomedical research and regenerative medicine. This facility combined with the existing expertise in hair follicle cell and organ cultured pioneered by Philpott (termed the Philpott model) will be used to develop next generation in vitro models hair follicle models. Specific aims of the project will include: (1) Optimise the biomaterials, printing parameters, and culture conditions for bioprinting 3D hair follicles, (2) Establish printing protocols for creating patterns of distinct epidermal (ORS and matrix keratinocytes) and dermal (dermal papilla and dermal sheath) sub-populations, (3) Characterise the spatial resolution and stability of patterned cells, (4) Investigate the influence of dermal patterning on epidermal growth and differentiation using hair follicle specific biomarkers such as hair keratins.
The results of these studies will lead to the establishment of new tools and technologies for skin tissue engineering and will provide fundamental biological insights into the role of dermal patterning on human skin morphogenesis. Importantly, it will also provide an excellent training opportunity for a PhD student in the fields of regenerative medicine and skin biology, and the project will lay the groundwork for future grant applications, including investigation of the molecular mechanisms involved in skin regeneration and translation of these bio-printing technologies into new therapeutic strategies. Such models are also likely to be of significant interest to industry.
All applicants should hold a masters level degree at first /distinction level in cell biology/biochemistry/tissue engineering (or a related discipline). Applicants should have a good knowledge of English and ability to express themselves clearly in both speech and writing. The successful candidate must be strongly motivated for doctoral studies, must have demonstrated the ability to work independently and to perform critical analysis.
Candidates are asked to possess fundamental knowledge and skills in two or more of the following areas:
• Excellent background in cell biology.
• Good knowledge of cell biology and imaging techniques, such as cell culture, immunohistochemistry, microscopy etc.
• Prior experience in cell culture would be a real advantage.
• Hands on experience using image analysis software or similar.
A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP): This PhD programme is a collaboration between A*STAR and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) to provide research opportunities for PhD students at A*STAR Research Institutes. Under this programme, PhD students from overseas universities will spend two years at A*STAR Research Institutes under the joint supervision of staff of the A*STAR Research Institutes and QMUL.
The primary supervisor is Professor Mike Philpott: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/blizard/staff/centre-for-cell-biology-and-cutaneous-research/staff/mike-philpott.html
The co-supervisor in Singapore is Professor Birgit Lane: https://www.a-star.edu.sg/imb/Research/tid/6/Epithelial-Biology
Interviews are expected to take place in April
Starting date: September 2019 (dates can be flexible)