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Creating a 3 dimensional skin substitute to model normal skin, wound healing and scarring using PODSTM technology

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  • Full or part time
    Prof A Metcalfe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Primary supervisor: Prof Anthony Metcalfe, University of Birmingham
Stakeholder supervisor: Dr Michael Jones (Cell Guidance Systems Ltd)

Skin wound treatment is a very diverse part of health care provision, encompassing surgical and accidental lacerations, trauma, burns, pressure ulcers, diabetic and venous ulcers. Current technologies for skin replacement remain partially effective in their ability to restore other skin structures, for example the dermis, which is critical to the overall long-term appearance and function of the skin. In this project, a skin substitute will be created using hydrogel engineering combined with keratinocytes, fibroblasts and fibrocytes alongside an exciting new technology known as POlyhedrin Delivery System (PODS®). Using the interdisciplinary approaches of hydrogel engineering, wound healing and developmental biology, growth factor releasing PODS® will be used to recapitulate the biological stimuli and mechanisms utilised by native skin. Combinations of growth factors will be introduced within the hydrogel moiety and with the introduction of various skin cell types will be used to mimic microenvironmental signals present within native skin and maybe even manipulated further to create complex models of wound healing/scarring.

This project is offered as part of the lifETIME (Engineered Tissues for Discovery, Industry and Medicine) CDT which is a partnership between the University of Glasgow, the University of Birmingham, Aston University and CÚRAM – Science Foundation Ireland.

The PhD studentship will offer training in the state-of-the-art Healthcare Technologies Institute (HTI; in the disciplines of tissue engineering, materials science, dermatology, developmental and growth factor biology to create a functional skin substitute. The interdisciplinary nature of the project will involve engineering hydrogels to mimic skin but elements of the project will be carried out with our industrial partner (Cell Guidance Systems; that creates the PODS® technology to investigate the role of growth factors to develop a smarter skin substitute. Additional training will be given in a variety of technical skills required for the project to succeed, as well as communication, presentation and leadership skills. An awareness of the commercial translation of such technologies will also form part of the training.

Global challenge

There are major problems with current drug discovery:
1. Genomic and high-throughput technologies are driving the volume of new drug leads, but despite this volume, the number of successes has remained static; there is a productivity crisis.
2. Overly simple in vitro screens and non-human animal models are not predicting fails and so approximately 40% of new drug fails are discovered during human trials.

The LifETIME CDT thus focuses on development of non-animal technologies to improve predictive power of pre-clinical drug screens and thus drive medicines discovery.

Benefits of joining our programme

The benefit of this programme is that we have partners from industry (Pharma, contract research organisations, small enterprises), the NHS, regulation and charity organisations who will work with our students. This CDT is based at the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Aston and Galway, as partners we work collaboratively to create a national cohort of new talent to drive this sector. This cohort will support each other throughout their professional careers working to bring better health to the UK and beyond.

Students who join this programme will find homes in dynamic labs in the host universities and have the opportunity for travel around the UK / Ireland and the rest of the world. If you want to perform exciting science, become a leader in the field, develop a network of like-minded talent and thus grow the UK drug discovery sector, then you should apply for this programme.

For more information and detail of the LifETIME programme please visit our website: The list of projects available will be upload to the website in December. Until then you can see example projects on our project page:

Funding and eligibility

Fully funded studentships are available at the UK/EU rate. To be eligible for a fully funded studentship you must be a UK citizen or an EU national who has been resident in the UK for the past three years. Applicants must have or expect to obtain a first-class degree (2.1 or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline; physical sciences (chemistry, physics, maths), engineering, life sciences or other relevant disciplines.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

LifETIME places equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of its activities, offering part-time studentships, funding to support applications from under-represented backgrounds (, childcare support for conference attendance, flexible working for carers as well as prompting a work-life balance.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted through the University of Glasgow online application system for session 2020/21. You will be required to submit a cover letter, CV, two references and your transcript/degree certificate. On your cover letter please state your preferred university.

Contact us

Email: [Email Address Removed]

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