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Developing smart self-assembling materials for fabrication of immune-regulatory “synthetic macrophages” as a novel tool for regenerative medicine application


School of Life Sciences

About the Project

We are seeking for highly motivated candidates with strong academic background in immunology, chemistry, biology or related area for a multidisciplinary three-year PhD project on developing smart materials for fabrication of synthetic macrophages. The project will be co-supervised by Professors Amir Ghaemmaghami (School of Life Sciences) and Alvaro Mata (School of Pharmacy).

Macrophages, essential component of the innate immunity, have been shown to play a central role as master regulators of many physiological processes such as clearance of pathogens, tissue remodelling after injury and host responses to implanted materials. Macrophages can acquire distinct functional phenotypes in different physiological scenarios. This is best exemplified by the concept of pro- or anti-inflammatory macrophages (also known as M1 and M2, respectively) that are shown to play a role in clearance of pathogens after infection and wound healing respectively. The use of phenotype-controlled macrophages has shown great promise in different clinical scenarios such as fibrosis and chronic/non-healing wounds where macrophages with a pro-healing phenotype have shown to accelerate tissue repair and homeostasis.
However, the use of this approach is limited by the need for large numbers of cells, heterogeneity of the macrophage population, and time to generate specific macrophage subsets from their precursors (e.g. monocytes or iPSCs).

To circumvent these limitations in this project we plan to develop intelligent materials to engineer macrophage-like synthetic cells. We will use recently developed interfacial self-assembling platforms and techniques such as microfluidics and additive manufacturing to design cell-like capsules capable of sensing environmental cues and releasing different cytokines/mediators to promote tissue regeneration. The functionality of synthetic macrophages will be tested in vitro using different cell/tissue culture platforms.

Training
The project provides excellent training opportunities in cellular immunology and materials sciences and will use a host of techniques and tools including immune characterisation, co-culture methods, ELISA, PCR, flow cytometry, microscopy as well as a range of additive manufacturing, materials fabrication and characterisation.

Requirements
Candidates must possess or expect to obtain, a 2:1 degree in Biology, Chemistry, Immunology or a related scientific discipline. Previous laboratory based experience in a relevant area will be advantageous.

Funding Notes

For informal enquires information you can contact Professor Amir Ghaemmaghami ()
or Professor Alvaro Mata ().

References

Okesola BO, Mata A. Multicomponent self-assembly as a tool to harness new properties from peptides and proteins in material design. Chem Soc Rev. 2018 May 21;47(10):3721-3736.

Vishwakarma A, Bhise NS, Evangelista MB, Rouwkema J, Dokmeci MR, Ghaemmaghami AM, Vrana NE, Khademhosseini A. Engineering Immunomodulatory Biomaterials To Tune the Inflammatory Response. Trends Biotechnol. 2016 Jun;34(6):470-482

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