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  Graphene oxide as growth factor carriers for meniscus tissue engineering

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

  , ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Damage to the meniscus of the knee leads to increased risk of osteoarthritis. Tissue engineering of a healthy meniscal fibrocartilage offers the opportunity to restore function. Such regenerative medicine approaches require combination of cells, biomaterials, and bioactive factors. Dr Richardson’s lab are currently developing a 3D bioprinting approach to create meniscus analogues with regional architecture and cell-matrix compositions that mimic native tissue. One of the current key challenges is to design suitable carriers for effective delivery of required growth factors regionally within meniscus constructs. Graphene oxide (GO) is a 2D nanomaterials with large surface area, which has attracted huge attention in recent years in biomedical research, due to its good biocompatibility and unique physicochemical properties for functionalisation, immobilisation or adsorption of other biomolecules effectively.

A study from Dr Richardson’s lab showed that GO can act as carriers for sustained delivery of TFG- β3 in 3D hydrogel scaffolds effectively to enhance chondrogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (Zhou et al., 2019). In addition, a new method of GO synthesis at high quality and various size was developed recently in Dr Lu and Prof Xiao’s labs (Sim et al., 2021). In this PhD project, we aim to develop our recent research progress further to investigate whether GO can act as carriers for biological factors required for meniscus tissue engineering.

How different sized GOs affect the binding or absorption and release of growth factors (e.g. TGF-β; CTGF), chondrogenic differentiation of human MSCs, construct biomechanics, and meniscus-tissue synthesis will be studied. This multidisciplinary project will provide an excellent opportunity for a self-motivated student to learn and develop knowledge and research skills in a wide research field.

The results of this study will help us to understand and explore the potential of GO as carriers for regionally-specific biological factor delivery in meniscus tissue engineering.

Training/techniques to be provided

This multidisciplinary project will provide an excellent opportunity for a self-motivated student to learn and develop knowledge and research skills in a wide research field, from basic sciences of protein biochemistry, cell biology, 2D materials and biomaterials, to research skills used in biological, biomedical, and materials characterisations. Dr Lu has expertise in graphene oxide synthesis, and protein characterisation using a wide range of biochemical and biophysical techniques. Dr Richardson has expertise in meniscus tissue engineering, 3D bioprinting, human MSC culture/differentiation and molecular phenotyping of cells. Prof Xiao has expertise in materials characterisation using a wide range of techniques. We will provide trainings to the student according to our complementary expertise for the project.

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) and ideally a master degree in biology, biomaterials, life sciences or a related subject. Candidates with experience in protein, cell culture, graphene oxide, tissue engineering and/or biomaterials with an interest in cartilage tissue engineering are encouraged to apply. 

How to Apply

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website


Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24) Medicine (26) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website: View Website


Sim HJ, Xiao P, Lu H. Pyrenebutyric acid-assisted room-temperature synthesis of large-size monolayer graphene oxide with high mechanical strength. Carbon. 2021 Nov 15;185:224-233. Epub 2021 Sept 14. doi: 10.1016/j.carbon.2021.09.013
Zhou M, Lozano N, Wychowaniec JK, Hodgkinson T, Richardson SM, Kostarelos K, Hoyland JA. Graphene oxide: A growth factor delivery carrier to enhance chondrogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells in 3D hydrogels. Acta Biomater. 2019 Sep 15;96:271-280. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2019.07.027.
Barceló X, Eichholz KF, Gonçalves IF, Garcia O, Kelly DJ. Bioprinting of structurally organized meniscal tissue within anisotropic melt electrowritten scaffolds. Acta Biomater. 2023 Mar 1;158:216-227. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2022.12.047.
Domingos M, Moxon S. Advances in Biofabrication for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Applications. Polymers (Basel). 2021 May 9;13(9):1522. doi: 10.3390/polym13091522.
Ligorio C, Zhou M, Wychowaniec JK, Zhu X, Bartlam C, Miller AF, Vijayaraghavan A, Hoyland JA, Saiani A. Graphene oxide containing self-assembling peptide hybrid hydrogels as a potential 3D injectable cell delivery platform for intervertebral disc repair applications. Acta Biomater. 2019 Jul 1;92:92-103. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2019.05.004.

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