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Optimisation of osteochondral grafts for the treatment of cartilage lesions

Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Leeds United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Mechanical Engineering

About the Project

The aim of this PhD is to evaluate osteochondral grafts for the repair of damaged cartilage in the knee. Using advanced engineering methods including finite element (FE) analysis and mechanical testing, this PhD will examine the mechanical performance of the grafts and address a pressing clinical challenge.   

Treatment for patients with osteoarthritis costs the NHS more than £5B per year, with the knee being the most common site, affecting over 4.5 million people in the UK. There is a clinical need for earlier stage, less-invasive, treatments to prevent or delay knee replacement surgery, which is costly an dnot suitable for all patients. Repair of small areas of damaged cartilage with osteochondral (cartilage + bone) grafts has shown some promise, but the clinical outcomes are variable.

This PhD will use a combination of novel experimental testing and finite element (FE) modelling methods to examine the mechanical performance of osteochondral grafts, with the aim of identifying the key design features of the graft that affect performance. The study will include the use of unique in vitro testing equipment and microCT imaging facilities to examine the mechanical performance of cadaveric human and sheep knees following grafting. Image-based FE methods will be used to evaluate the graft performance, extending current methods to examine graft subsidence and damage to adjacent tissues. There will be opportunities to validate the models against both experimental data from Leeds and recent in vivo sheep studies undertaken by collaborators at UCL. The combined experimental and FE approach will be used to evaluate the effects of graft design changes, and propose how grafts can best be matched to different patient characteristics.

The successful candidate should have experience in mechanical engineering methods including FE analysis and ideally have some laboratory experience. During the project, you will be expected to prepare and test human cadaveric tissue specimens; previous experience in handling human or animal tissue would be beneficial, but not essential. Full training will be provided on all laboratory methods and the associated health and safety requirements. 

There will be opportunities to be involved in wider activities organised by the research group, including public and patient engagement events, and bespoke training for careers in the medtech sector. You will be encouraged to develop wider skills through training provided by the University and through opportunities to participate in international conferences or laboratory visits.  

Funding Notes

A highly competitive EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant of £15,609 per annum for session 2021/22 for 3.5 years.
This opportunity is open to all applicants, with a number of awards for Non-UK nationals limited by UKRI to 1. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.

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