PhD position on nanocomposite hydrogels for tissue engineering

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
September 21, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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PhD position on nanocomposite hydrogels for tissue engineering

(ref. BAP-2023-472)

Last modification : Monday, August 21, 2023

PhD position to be carried out in the Nanobiophysics team lead by Prof. Carmen Bartic (Soft Matter and Biophysics, Department of Physics and Astronomy) in collaboration with the Sustainable Materials lab coordinated by Prof. Wim Thielemans (Department of Chemical Engineering, KULAK) and the Tissue engineering team under the supervision of Prof. Heidi Declercq (Department of Development and Regeneration, KULAK). The Nanobiophysics team develops dynamic biomaterials combining the biomimetic properties of hydrogels with the tunable physical properties of engineered nanomaterials to guide and monitor cell behavior. These active materials find applications as artificial extracellular matrices in tissue engineering and organ-on-chip platforms or are integrated in implantable biosensors. Our team has expertise in biophotonics, soft- and condensed mater physics, chemistry, material science and biology and unique infrastructure for performing advanced research at the boundary between physics, engineering and biology.

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3D tissue- or organ-on-a-chip systems are nowadays investigated as potentially more effective and physiologically relevant alternative models to animal testing in applications such as drug screening, disease, and toxicology research. Although significant progress has been made to biofabricate 3D biomimetic tissue analogs, complex structural features of tissues and vascular network integration are difficult to achieve. Conjugation of optical nanoparticles onto multiphase materials will allow to remotely provide active stimuli for cell differentiation and maturation and record cellular functions and system parameters in the developing tissue.

In this project, the aim is to incorporate functional nanoparticles into multiphase hydrogel formulations supporting cell growth and viability and study how dynamic, remote, optical modulation of local matrix and cell properties influence cell responses. Specifically, we will investigate the influence of plasmonic stimulation (inducing thermal gradients and mechanical periodic stress) on myotube and vasculature formation in vitro. Fluorescent temperature and oxygen sensors will be also integrated into the 3D tissue construct for continuous monitoring of system parameters. These experiments will allow identifying the parameter window where cell behavior can be modulated towards contractile activity synchronization in 3D vascularized constructs and will be further exploited to perform chronic stimulation of tissue constructs during maturation.

While the main focus of this PhD project is to develop the nanoparticle toolbox together with optical modulation and readout protocols and study their effects on muscle and vasculature formation, the different project activities will be carried out in collaboration with partners developing multiphase material formulations (the Sustainable Materials Lab of Prof Wim Thielemans) and 3D bioprinting methods for myogenic tissue engineering (the Tissue Engineering Lab of Prof. Heidi Declercq).

  • You have a Master's degree in (bio)physics, (bio)chemistry, nanoscience and nanotechnology, engineering (chemical, electrical or biomedical);
  • You have distinguished yourself during your bachelor/masters studies;
  • You have a special interest in nanotechnology applications in biology and medicine;
  • You are motivated, ambitious, creative and result-oriented;
  • You are able to work independently in an international and multidisciplinary team;
  • You are fluent in English and have good skills in oral and written scientific communication.
  • Offer
  • 4 years, full-time doctorate scholarship (pending a positive evaluation before the end of the first year), starting after October 1st.
  • The possibility to work on a challenging and advance research topic, in a dynamic academic environment, to acquire research expertise, technical and soft skills, to participate in national and international scientific events and interact with leading researchers in the field.
  • To contribute to academic educational programs.
  • The work place is in Leuven, Belgium.
  • Interested?

    For more information please contact Prof. dr. Carmen Bartic

    mail: [email protected].

    KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at [email protected].

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