EPSRC Studentship Stem cell-based neuroprosthetic device for spinal cord injury

University of Cambridge - Department of Engineering

An PhD studentship is available through the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in the newly established Bioelectronics group in the Department of Engineering. The aim is to develop a novel neuroprosthetic device for people with spinal cord injury.

Injury to the spinal cord or to a peripheral nerve affects the ability of the brain to communicate with muscles. The field of neuroprosthetics holds considerable promise for restoring function by using electronics to connect the brain directly to the muscle. A key limitation of this technology is establishing an efficient and reliable connection between electronics and muscle. Current solutions that utilize implantable electrodes show limited efficacy and lifetime. The aim of this project is to develop a neuroprosthetic device that uses stem cell-derived motor neurons to achieve peripheral nerve reinnervation and connection to electronics. The device will host the cells in an electrically-active conduit, providing efficient electrical stimulation, while the activation of the muscle will take place through a neuromuscular junction, addressing the problems of efficiency and stability that plague current devices.

Conduits that host the stem-cell derived neurons will be fabricated at the Nanoscience Centre using advanced microfabrication techniques on flexible substrates. They will comprise of conducting polymer electrodes that combine topographical guidance and electrical stimulation to guide reinnervation. The devices will be tested with collaborators in a neurobiology lab (Centre for Brain Repair and Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine) and implanted for electrophysiology testing in murine models at the MIRA animal facility. The student will be expected to mainly focus his/her work on the design and prototyping of conduits, but to also participate in their validation.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain by the start date) at least a good 2.1 degree (and preferably a Masters degree) in an Engineering or a related subject.

This studentship will pay full University fees and a maintenance allowance of at least £14,582 per year for UK students. EU citizens are eligible for a fees only award.

Overseas students are not eligible for this Studentship and should not apply.

Applications should be submitted via the University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions web pages http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/students/gradadmissions/prospec/apply/, with Professor George Malliaras identified as the potential supervisor

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

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