PhD studentship- Microenvironmental Profiling, Predictive Screening and In Silico Modelling for Personalised Regeneration of the Intervertebral Disc


Applications are invited for the following PhD studentship for the following project: 

Microenvironmental Profiling, Predictive Screening and In Silico Modelling for Personalised Regeneration of the Intervertebral Disc

This position will be based with the Buckley Lab (www.buckleylab.eu) within the Trinity Centre for Biomedical Engineering (TCBE) and the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre (AMBER). Prof. Buckley leads a multidisciplinary research group in the School of Engineering at Trinity College Dublin. The goal of the Buckley lab is to develop novel biomaterial and cell-based strategies to regenerate or repair damaged tissues to restore function using minimally invasive strategies (MIS).

Summary of project

Injectable cell-based therapies have been explored for the past two decades for the treatment of degenerated disc disease (DDD) with the specific aim to repopulate the nucleus pulposus and augment tissue repair through the deposition of neo-matrix such as proteoglycans with a number of clinical trials currently underway. However, the degenerated intervertebral disc has a distinct environment (e.g. altered oxygen, glucose, acidity, inflammatory cytokine levels) that is unique to an individual (i.e. patient-specific) and is critical for cell survival, function and matrix synthesis. In selecting patients for advanced therapies, no effort or appreciation is given to determining these microenvironmental factors for an individual which will ultimately affect clinical outcomes. As the field advances towards more extensive clinical trials for assessing advanced biomaterial or cell‐based therapeutics, a “one size fits all” approach will most likely lead to the failure or lack of efficacy of advanced therapies, as they are not being optimised for individual patients. The objective of this project is to make direct measurements (from extracted human tissue) of osmolarity, oxygen, glucose, pH levels pro-regenerative and inflammatory cytokines thereby establishing the in vivo niche environment. This information will then be used with high throughput predictive screening of microtissues to determine viability and matrix synthesis rates in conjunction with in silico modelling to design and tailor cell therapies for intradiscal delivery without creating a nutrient deprived or high lactate (low pH) microenvironment.

For more information please contact Prof. Conor Buckley conor.buckley@tcd.ie

Applicant criteria & eligibility: The ideal applicant will have a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, biomaterials, tissue engineering, materials science or a related discipline in engineering.  Previous experience in bioprinting, hydrogels/biomaterials, tissue engineering, cell culture, PCR, biochemical analysis, histology techniques, in silico modelling would be advantageous but not essential. Excellent written and oral communication skills are essential. Applicants must have been resident in an EU member state for 3 out of the last 5 years to be eligible for funding through this programme.

How to apply: CVs with the names and addresses of three referees should be submitted  via email to Prof. Conor Buckley conor.buckley@tcd.ie with the subject heading “ERC PhD Microenvironment”. Positions will remain opened until filled but preferred start date is January 2021. Only short-listed applications will be acknowledged.

Funding: These positions are funded by the European Research Council (ERC)- Consolidator Award (INTEGRATE) Personalised Medicine for Intervertebral Disc Regeneration- Integrating Profiling, Predictive Modelling and Gene Activated Biomaterials and supports annual EU fees and stipend (€18,500 per annum) for 4 years

About the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre (AMBER): AMBER is a Science Foundation Ireland funded centre that provides a partnership between leading researchers in materials science and industry. More information can be found at http://ambercentre.ie/

About the Trinity Centre for Biomedical Engineering (TCBE): TCBE is a key research centre in Trinity College combining fundamental research with translation to clinical practice. TCBE provides a structure to bring bioengineers, basic scientists and clinicians together to focus on important clinical needs and has four key research themes: Medical Devices & Advanced Drug Delivery, Neural Engineering, Biomechanics & Mechanobiology, Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine. The project work will be carried out in our state-of-the-art facilities located in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute. More information can be found at https://www.tcd.ie/biomedicalengineering/