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Evaluation of drug effects using 3D tissue engineering corneal models

School of Science and Engineering

Dundee United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Radiology

About the Project

The cornea is the outermost layer of a human eye. It has a transparent, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. The transparency of the corneal permits the light to enter the eye, and the cornea plays an essential role in focusing the vision. It is also a protective barrier against dirt, germs, and other potential damage that can harm the eye. Additionally, the cornea is also exposed to damages, such as injuries, scratches, laser surgery and chemical reagents. The cornea usually heals on its own after minor injuries, but deeper injuries can cause corneal scarring, which will result in a haze on the cornea that impairs vision.

Some anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics have been used to reduce the infection and regulate the immune system to promote the wound healing process. It is of significance to effectively evaluate the drug effects before releasing to the market. However, using in-vivo animal models seems difficult due to the ethic concern, the short of animal models, as well as the inherent differences between human and animal eye in the aspects of structure and physiology. Also, it is extremely difficult to collect human donors. Alternatively, a reconstructed human corneal model suits better for this task using tissue engineering techniques.

The tissues of the cornea are arranged in five different layers. Among them, the epithelium measures slightly less than 10% of the thickness of the overall cornea, and the stroma is approximately 90% of the thickness of the entire cornea. This project is intended to reconstruct the human cornea using 3D epithelium-stroma co-culture model, and mimic the eye injury by scratch assay and chemical lesion, as well as conduct the assessment of drug effects using different biotechnological and biomedical methods. During the period of this project, the student is expected to
1. design and plan the experiments using suitable materials and methods,
2. prepare a review of literature of current research activities related to this project,
3. develop tissue engineering skills to successfully build a 3D corneal model,
4. be skilled at operating associated biotechnological and biomedical instruments,
5. be capable to analyse the data using statistical software.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Chunhui Li ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Dr Chunhui Li () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Li, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Biomedical Engineering: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees, project specific bench fees and living expenses via external sponsorship or self-funding.

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