Peripheral nerve injury is debilitating, causing loss of sensation and muscle control, chronic pain and permanent disability. In addition to the serious impact on patients and their families, nerve injuries impact society economically through reduced productivity (nerve injuries predominantly affect young people) as well as the cost of healthcare and rehabilitation. Damaged nerves have the potential to regenerate following surgical repair, but there are serious limitations for treating serious nerve injuries where a gap needs to be bridged, because regeneration requires a supportive microenvironment. The current best option is a nerve autograft harvested from another part of the patient’s body, but donor site morbidity, limited availability and poor outcome mean there is a clear clinical need to develop effective alternatives.
Tissue engineering together with stem cell technologies provide promising routes for the construction of living artificial nerve replacement tissues, and the Phillips lab at UCL (www.jamesphillips.org) have developed Engineered Neural Tissue (EngNT) to address this need. This project will explore and quantify cell responses to a range of physical and chemical cues using advanced 3D in vitro models, and will fabricate new designs of repair constructs proposed through computational modelling. Therefore, the student will work with biomaterials, cell culture and tissue engineering tools. Data produced through the in vitro work will be used directly within computational models, and the student will be expected to work closely with these modellers.
This appointment forms part of the EPSRC-funded project NerveDesign (Mathematical Modelling Led Design of Tissue-Engineered Constructs: A New Paradigm for Peripheral Nerve Repair – see www.rjshipley.london for linked projects). The award aims to develop in silico, in vitro and in vivo tools for better understanding peripheral nerve repair, and for engineering nerve repair solutions. The project team will be members of the UCL Centre for Nerve Engineering (www.nerve-engineering.ucl.ac.uk), founded in 2017 by Drs Shipley and Phillips to promote and develop interdisciplinary approaches to nerve repair.
Applicants should have a background in a relevant scientific or engineering subject area, ideally with some practical laboratory experience in cell biology, neuroscience or tissue engineering. Enthusiasm for interdisciplinary research that spans biology and computational modelling is essential.
Closing date and start date
Please submit all applications by 23:59pm on Friday 9th March. Start date will be arranged by mutual agreement.
Value of award
Full tuition fees and stipend of £16,553 per annum, for 3 years.
Interested applicants should email Drs Rebecca Shipley (firstname.lastname@example.org) and James Phillips (email@example.com) in the first instance, attaching a copy of their CV and a brief covering letter. The supervisory team will arrange interviews for short-listed candidates.