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Microfabrication approaches to understanding fibroblast roles in tissue regeneration

Project Description

Introducing complexity within in vitro models via the creation of restrictive and confined 3D microenvironments is an emerging approach that has recently generated key data regarding intricate aspects of cell behaviour [1, 2]. Although efforts have until now mainly focussed on studying cell-material interactions using stem cells, the potential of introducing stromal cells within the models, specifically fibroblasts, has been recently reported [3,4]. Fibroblasts are extremely important in both regeneration and cancer but they are generally considered as low-activity cells and their role is often disregarded in in vitro models.

There is a need to develop new in vitro models that allow us to better understand and direct fibroblast responses and, therefore, develop new tools that can ultimately contribute to new approaches in tissue healing. Based on our promising pilot data, this project proposes to do this using microfabricated electrospun scaffolds. Electrospun membranes have great potential in the development of 3D cell culture models and medical devices as they can mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM), to a degree, providing cells with a porous environment in which to proliferate. Electrospinning can be combined with other techniques such as additive manufacturing to produce intricate 3D environments; this combination of techniques was published by Dr. Ortega and coworkers in 2013 [5].

Dr. Ortega and Dr. Lambert, experts in biomaterials manufacturing and fibroblast biology, respectively, have recently shown how a microfabricated membrane (electrospun polycaprolactone) has the potential to keep a fibroblast population in a non-active and non-proliferative state. The aim of this multidisciplinary PhD project is to develop a range of microfabricated scaffolds using additive manufacturing and electrospinning to study fibroblast phenotype. We hypothesise the microfabricated membranes will provide fibroblasts with a normal physiology-like environment in which they will stay inactive, mimicking their behaviour in the body.

You will join a vibrant, multidisciplinary group with an excellent record in PhD supervision. You will use cutting-edge biomedical and engineering approaches to generate data that will be key in developing complex laboratory tissue regeneration and cancer progression models, in which fibroblasts have shown to be essential.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree or significant research experience in the areas of Biomaterials Science or/and Molecular Biology.

Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Dr Ortega ()

How to apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select School of Clinical Dentistry as the department.

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP funded studentship covering fee and stipend at the UKRI Home / EU rate for a duration of 3.5 years. RTSG of £4,500 over the duration of study is also included in this award. This studentship is open to Home students and EU students who have been resident in the UK for the last 3 years; EU students who do not meet the above are entitled to fee only; overseas students are not eligible for this funding.


[1] Giobbe, et al. (2012). Biotechnol Bioeng 109(12): 3119-3132;
[2] Müller, et al. (2015). Biomaterials 53(0): 709-715; (3; [3] Raghu Kalluri. (2016). Nature Reviews, 2016, 16, p. 582; [4] Melling G, et al. (2018).Carcinogenesis, 39(6), 798-807; [5] Ortega, al (2013). Acta Biomater 9(3): 5511-5520.

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