Bioengineering a full thickness cornea


Corneal blindness is the 4th leading cause of global blindness (WHO). Corneal scarring can be caused by trauma or infection and corneal replacement with donor corneas or synthetic (plastic) alternatives is currently the sole treatment to restore vision. The cornea comprises an outer epithelial layer, a stroma made up of orthogonally aligned layers of collagen fibrils, and an inner endothelium. Attempts have been made to create tissue equivalents of these three layers to relieve the burden of global donor cornea shortage. So far, no one has successfully mimicked the full thickness cornea including all 3 layers. A full thickness tissue engineered cornea would be valuable for use in transplantation but also for use as an in vitro model to understand the mechanisms of disease and for drug testing.

Previous work in our group has shown that additive manufacturing can be used to create porous stromal like tissue. We seek a student to develop this further to incorporate all three layers of the cornea into one construct, using human primary cells from cadaveric corneas as well as corneal cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

This project would be suitable for a motivated student with a strong interest in tissue engineering and biomaterials and their applications in treating eye disease. You will undertake experiments involving human eye tissue dissection, primary human and porcine cell culture, iPS cell culture, hydrogel manufacture, inkjet printing, immunocytochemistry, confocal microscopy. You will have strong interactions with clinical colleagues in St.Paul’s Eye Unit and other colleagues in the Department of Eye and Vision Science.

You would be supervised by a team from the Departments of Eye and Vision Science (Dr Levis and Prof. Williams) at the Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences and the School of Engineering (Dr Kate Black). They have wide-ranging expertise and will provide training and support in all relevant laboratory and analysis techniques.

For enquiries regarding this opportunity and to enquire on the application process, please contact Dr Hannah Levis on: 


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Self-funded project

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of around £10,000 per year. There is NO funding attached to this project. Details of costs can be found on the University website.



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