Development of the first in vitro tool for the investigation into the effects of mechanical stimulation on the osteoregenerative biomaterial/bone interaction at cellular level

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (EU/UK students only)
  • Department: School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Marta Roldo, Dr Gianluca Tozzi, Prof Gordon Blunn

Project code: PHBM3831117

Project description

Age related musculoskeletal diseases increase the risk of bone fractures and, as the population ages, their treatment will cost the NHS £6bn by 2036. Osteoporosis alone affects an estimated 3 million people in the UK; with 300,000 bone fractures treated by the NHS every year; these have a great impact on the patients’ quality of life and are associated to high mortality. Existing “gold standard” treatment protocols (i.e. autografts or allografts) are limited by inadequate availability of donor’s tissue, donor site morbidity, risk of infection, etc. Alternative materials are used in the clinic but they are also affected by serious drawbacks such as limited osteoinductivity and inadequate mechanical behaviour (i.e. stiffness and brittleness); hence, novel strategies must be developed to improve current treatments. The development of novel materials able to induce controlled bone formation, and presenting an adequate resorption kinetic, is considered the most promising route. In the development of these biomaterials, it is key to understand the joint role of biological environment and mechanical stimuli (aka ‘mechanoregulation’) typical of physiological conditions; and their dependence on the type of material used. To date, the preferred way to study this aspect is performing studies in animals; these can provide a real physiological environment to assess biomaterials efficacy in bone tissue regeneration. Unfortunately, this strategy employs countless animals with high cost and implicit ethical issues.

The aim of the proposed research is to develop the first in vitro protocol for the study of the role of osteoregenerative biomaterials in bone regeneration. The relationship between the mechanical characteristics of the employed biomaterials and their ability to produce new quality bone in a biological environment will be investigated. The research will provide a better understanding of the outcome of bone formation when simulated physiological loading is applied, resulting in the development of better bone repair materials. In addition, correlative imaging combining confocal microscopy, x-ray microscopy and mechanical testing will ensure in-depth knowledge of the entire transition from cell activity to regenerated tissue. The project will increase knowledge on bone formation related to biomaterial design and mechanical stimulation, providing the first in vitro platform aiming to substitute animal studies in the next future and representing a breakthrough methodological tool for the development of new treatments.

 Supervisor profiles

Dr Marta Roldo

Dr Gianluca Tozzi

Prof Gordon Blunn

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

This laboratory-based project would be suitable for a bioscience graduate e.g. biomedical science, biochemistry, pharmacology or similar.


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Marta Roldo at (02392 843586) or Dr Gianluca Tozzi at (02392 842514).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: PHBM3831117.

Interview date: TBC

Start date: October 2018.

Funding notes

The fully-funded, full-time three-year studentship provides a stipend that is in line with that offered by Research Councils UK of £14,553 per annum.

The above applies for Home/EU students only.

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