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Developing novel fibre/gel composites to support conjunctiva repair

   Department of Eye and Vision Science

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  Dr L Bosworth, Prof Rachel Williams, Mr James Hsuan, Dr N Liptrott  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

BACKGROUND: The conjunctiva is a thin mucous tissue lining the front of the eye and inside the eyelids. It is essential for maintaining a healthy eye surface and protects from dust and infection. Its surface is susceptible to disease or trauma causing damage that results in loss of vision or double vision. A damaged conjunctiva also compromises the success of corneal transplants. Current treatments involving grafting tissue to replace lost or scarred conjunctiva are limited in their ability to support the required cells, present a risk of infection, are fragile or not readily available in sufficient quantity.


1. Fabricate electrospun fibre/hydrogel composites

2. Characterise the material properties of fibre/gel composites relative to conjunctiva

3. Evaluate in vitro cell response of human conjunctiva cells on fibre/gel composites

4. Determine biocompatibility and cytotoxicity of fibre/gel composites

5. Assess surgical potential in terms of handling and ability to suture

NOVELTY: Developing a biomaterial scaffold based on a novel composite to tissue engineer conjunctiva is highly innovative.

EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: A range of experimental skills will be applied, including fibre production (electrospinning, melt electrowriting), hydrogel manufacture, composite development, human eye tissue dissection, primary and immortal cell culture, imaging (SEM/confocal), in vitro assays, macrophage studies, direct/indirect culture, mechanical testing, suture pull-out. 

POTENTIAL IMPACT: This project will advance our understanding and development of a novel biomaterial composite. The application is intended for conjunctiva repair, particularly conjunctival carcinomas which often leave large defects following excision of tissue and grafts for repair are extremely limited. The project will have significant impact in this field, but may also be applied to other tissues requiring regeneration and therefore its potential impact is more broad.

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded Home studentship which cover fees, maintenance, and bench fees.


Bosworth, L.A., Turner, L.A. and Cartmell, S.H., 2013. State of the art composites comprising electrospun fibres coupled with hydrogels: a review. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, 9(3), pp.322-335.
Bosworth, L.A., Doherty, K.G., Hsuan, J.D., Cray, S.P., D’Sa, R.A., Pineda Molina, C., Badylak, S.F. and Williams, R.L., 2021. Material characterisation and stratification of conjunctival epithelial cells on electrospun poly (ε-caprolactone) fibres loaded with decellularised tissue matrices. Pharmaceutics, 13(3), p.318.
Makuloluwa, A.K., Hamill, K.J., Rauz, S., Bosworth, L., Haneef, A., Romano, V., Williams, R.L., Dartt, D.A. and Kaye, S.B., 2021. The conjunctival extracellular matrix, related disorders and development of substrates for conjunctival restoration. The Ocular Surface.
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