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Repairing Cartilage Defects by Coupling Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering

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  • Full or part time
    Assoc Prof Michael Doran
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

This project builds on our substantial experience in the cartilage tissue engineering space. Please see some of our recent publications in this area [1-3].

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of pain and disability in Australia (and generally in the western world). Cartilage tissue has a limited capacity for self-repair. Repairing cartilage defects is clinically challenging, and most defects will evolve into osteoarthritic lesions requiring total joint replacement. It is widely anticipated that tissue engineering technologies will eventually make the reliable repair of cartilage defects feasible, thereby delaying or preventing osteoarthritis. There are a number of challenging currently faced by the field, and our laboratory is working to develop solutions to current and anticipated future challenges. There are two specific streams within available PhD project(s) that will be interesting to students. Either stream will contribute to high quality competitive Thesis outcomes in terms of both publications and skillsets:

1. The development/optimization of culture conditions that will enable the differentiation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (BMSC) into stable chondrocyte populations that will form hyaline cartilage and not undergo hypertrophy in vivo. This project stream addresses one of the most pressing issues in cartilage tissue engineering today. This project will involve working and designing novel culture devices, working with human stem/progenitor cells, working with animal models, as well as learning/mastering an array of analytical techniques. Small and large animal work opportunities are available.

2. The development/optimization of cell delivery strategies that promote cartilage tissue maturation and integration within cartilage defects. Current prototype strategies include biomaterial/growth factor deliver, and gene therapy approaches. Depending on the skills and interest of applicants, this project can be tailored to exploit stronger background in either biomaterials engineering or molecular biology. This project will involve working and designing novel culture devices, the development of novel materials, working with human stem cells, genetic modification of stem cell populations, working with animal models, as well as learning/mastering an array of analytical techniques. Small and large animal work opportunities are available.

We seek promising candidates from Australia and elsewhere in the world who have a background in biomedical sciences (BSc) or biomedical engineering (BEng). Applicants should have an excellent GPA, be self-motivated and dedicated to a career in science/discovery. Applicants must have some prior research experience. Ideally, applicants will have a first author publication, although this is not essential.

You can view the QUT PhD entrance requirements here - and here

Successful applicants will have excellent communication skills, and be proficient in speaking/writing in English. Projects will requires both independent work as well as regular interaction with surgeons, veterinary surgeons, other research team members, as well as our local Translational Research Institute community. This is a high quality, and intense environment where students are expected to engage in regular presentations and actively contribute to our multidisciplinary team.

Please sent a cover letter describing your relevant background and interests, a CV, transcripts, and list of three potential referees. Please send to A/Prof Doran - [Email Address Removed]

A/Prof Mike Doran’s laboratory is based at the Translational Research Institute -
The Translational Research Institute (TRI) is a unique, Australian-first initiative of ‘bench to bedside’ medical research. TRI combines clinical and translational research to advance progress from laboratory discovery to application in the community.

A/Prof Doran is employed through QUT, and his profile can be viewed here –

The TRI is located in an inner city suburb of Brisbane Australia -

Brisbane is a subtropical international city, with a very strong biomedical science community. Brisbane has excellent public transport, and is very close to costal attractions such as,_Queensland and,_Queensland

Funding Notes

The PhD program is intended to be a 3-year intensive research-based opportunity for students to receive high quality, hands-on training, leading to the development of competitive independent researchers.
Successful applicants will be awarded a QUT fee waiver, and a supervisor’s scholarship of ~$26,682 per year. There are multiple opportunities for strong students to compete for additional scholarship funding that will function to increase the value of their total scholarship package.



1. Babur, Futrega, Lott, Klein, Cooper-White, and Doran, High throughput bone and cartilage micropellet manufacture, followed by assembly of micropellets into a biphasic osteochondral tissue. Cell and Tissue Research, 2015.

2. Futrega, K., J.S. Palmer, M. Kinney, W.B. Lott, M.D. Ungrin, P.W. Zandstra, and M.R. Doran, The microwell-mesh: A novel device and protocol for the high throughput manufacturing of cartilage microtissues. Biomaterials, 2015. 62: p. 1-12.

3. Markway, B.D., G.K. Tan, G. Brooke, J.E. Hudson, J.J. Cooper-White, and M.R. Doran, Enhanced chondrogenic differentiation of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in low oxygen environment micropellet cultures. Cell Transplant, 2010. 19(1): p. 29-42.

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