Cells need three dimensional environments to grow and to differentiate, and thus efforts have been made to engineer materials that can display adhesion ligands, growth factors and that have controlled properties. ECM-derived matrices, such as Matrigel, are currently widely used and support the growth and function of a wide variety of cell types in vitro. However, Matrigel is an undefined mixture of ECM proteins and growth factors (GFs), with undefined composition undefined, lack of control of mechanical properties and to lot-to-lot variability. Matrigel is widely used as it contains GFs that provide biological activity not yet achieved by synthetic systems. Given this, there is a pressing need to design synthetic matrices that can fulfil the roles of the ECM.
This project will provide further functionality to Manchester Biogel’s synthetic Peptigel® hydrogels (MBG) by incorporating solid-phase presentation of growth factors into the hydrogels. This will enhance bioactivity of MBG gels to target (a) stem cell differentiation (e.g. BMP-2 to promote osteogenesis) and maintenance of stem cell phenotypes. The PhD project will work to engineer this new family of self-assembling hydrogels that have the potential to recruit and present growth factors. We will also show proof of concept of biological functionality by triggering stem cell differentiation and maintenance of phenotypes.
This project is based in the Centre for the Cellular Microenvironment (https://glasgow.thecemi.org ) a well-funded, dynamic research environment and would give the student insight into both academic and industrial research settings. It would suit a student with a strong background in chemistry / materials science / bioengineering / cell biology wanted go beyond classical disciplines and explore the cell/material interface. Informal enquiries to [email protected].
Closing date: 29th Feb 2020 – looking to start around April 2020