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Developing bioelectronic implants through fusion of stem cells and electroactive scaffolds

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, October 28, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is a cross institution (Keele University and Lancaster University) and multidisciplinary PhD program with the primary goal to develop and test new materials for repairing spinal cord injury. Specifically, we aim to develop soft, potentially degradable “bioelectronic implants” that can deliver therapeutic stem cells and electrical stimulation simultaneously to injury sites. Research has shown that cell transplantation and electrical stimulation can both potentially address clinical goals such as replacing lost cells, breaking down scar tissue and stimulating nerve fibre growth. In addition, electrical stimulation can improve regenerative behaviour of stem cells (including increasing cell numbers at injury sites and promoting the generation of nerve cells). However, cell transplantation faces issues such as low cell survival and poor cell integration and electrical stimulation has been delivered using permanent, hard, invasive electrodes, limiting its widespread clinical adoption.

It has been shown that delivering cells within scaffold-like materials can improve cell survival after transplantation. Furthermore, these materials can be designed to be soft (e.g. matching nervous tissue stiffness), degradable and electrically active. This means they have the potential to overcome challenges surrounding both cell transplantation and electrical stimulation in the spinal cord. Our primary hypothesis is that stem cells can be combined with electrically active scaffolds, and through the development of this novel technology a single implant can be used for both cell replacement and the delivery of electrical stimulation to sites of spinal injury.

Near the beginning of this PhD around 10 weeks will be spent at Lancaster University to learn fabrication and characterisation of electrically active scaffolds. Subsequently, these will be tested in Keele University for their ability to support therapeutic cell populations. Therefore, the successful candidate will learn chemical synthesis and characterisation of electroactive biomaterials, primary neural cell culture, immunostaining, 3D fluorescence microscopy and image analysis techniques.

Please quote FNS GS 2019-21 on your application.

Keele University values diversity, and is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity. In support of these commitments, Keele University particularly welcomes applications from women and from individuals of black and ethnic minority backgrounds for this post. The School of Life Sciences and Keele University have Athena Swan Awards and Keele University is a member of the Disability Confident scheme.

More information is available on these web pages:

Funding Notes

100% UK/EU tuition fees for 3 years commencing Academicyear 2019/2020 (UK/EU fees are £4,327 per annum for
Stipend support for three years at UKRI rates
(2019/20 stipend £15,009 per annum).
Approximately, 10 weeks towards the beginning of the project will be in Lancaster University and funding to cover this is provided.

Minimum BSc (2:1 or higher) in Biological Sciences
or equivalent discipline, with strong preference for candidates with Neuroscience element within degree program.
Overseas students are eligible but need to pay difference between UK/EU fees (£4,327 per annum for
2019/20) and overseas fees. Overseas fees a £23,840 per annum.

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