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Light-driven biofabrication of 3D stem-cell chondrogenic tissue analogues

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Biomedical Materials

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Dr Marco Domingos No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Manchester United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Medical Physics

About the Project

Application deadline: 3rd March

Articular cartilage (AC) defects are one of the major causes of immobility and poor quality of life for millions of individuals worldwide. Current medical therapies have proven to be insufficient for the long-term regeneration of AC defects. Alternatively, the application of bioprinting in tissue engineering (TE) allows for the fabrication of complex 3D constructs via the precise spatial deposition of multiple cells and biomaterials. When integrated with human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), bioprinting opens up the possibility to generate human chondroprogenitor-containing tissue substitutes that can then be transplanted into AC defects and produce cartilage to repair the defect. cartilage. Despite significant progress, the current differentiation protocols for hPSCs towards chondrocytes still present several challenges, including the high cost, inducing factor batch to batch variation and precise timing of administered growth factors and cellular receptor expression together with poor precision of pathway activation. Based on previous work [1], we hypothesise that through using optogenetics, which combines optical and genetic approaches to control cell signalling and hence phenotype, cell-signalling receptors that are critical for regulation of chondrogenesis can be replaced with engineered light sensitive receptors, allowing activation of signalling by specific light wavelengths. This will enable precision fine-tuning of differentiation in 3D bioprinted cell-laden hydrogels by light. If successful, this innovative approach would enable, for the first time, the dynamic manipulation of cell signalling pathways with high spatio-temporal precision.

Main question to be answered

-         Can we translate established 2D optogenetic protocols for the generation of chondroprogenitors organised into 3D tissue forming arrays?

-         How is the light transmission required for optogenetic-receptor activation affected by the physicochemical properties of polymeric hydrogels?

-         What are the optimal light parameters (e.g. intensity, spatial accuracy, exposure time, etc) capable of driving hPSC differentiation into chondrogenic lineages in 3D hydrogels?


Students please note this placement will be at the University of Coimbra, Portugal

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Biomedical Materials

This project is part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Biomedical Materials. All available projects are listed here.

Find out how to apply, with full details on eligibility and funding here.

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