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BlogSpot: Joint Virtual Conference 24-25th June 2020

Dr Caroline S. Taylor, PDRA, University of Sheffield

My research in peripheral nerve repair (PNR) was featured at the joint UKSB/CDT conference. I delivered a 3 minute flash presentation about the potential of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) as scaffold materials for PNR and was delighted to receive the runner up prize. PHAs are an attractive material of choice in tissue engineering as they are biocompatible, biodegradable and elimate concerns used with other FDA approved synthetic polymers. Using a novel ex vivo nerve injury model, a combination of 3D printing and electrospinning, different materials, and fibre diameters, can be investigated for PNR with medium throughput. PHAs were significantly better at promoting longer neurite outgrowth distances, and Schwann cell migration distances, from Dorsal root ganglia, compared to a polycaprolactone control.

Image of my flash presentation and schematic diagram of the 3D ex vivo model used to test different material scaffolds.

The virtual conference was absolutely brilliant. It was well organised, ran smoothly and a variety of topics in Biomaterials and tissue engineering were discussed. The conference began with a talk from the key note speaker Prof Liam Grover who talked about his work using additive manufacturing techniques in areas of bone/cartilage and skin regeneration, and cornea repair. Two sessions ran parallel to each other after the key note talk, in which I attended clinical applications 1, followed by the poster discussion session. I particularly enjoyed clinical applications 2, on day 2 of the conference, and the talks by Jessica Wiseman and Simon C. Kellaway.  Jessica’s talk highlighted the use of neurosurgical grade biomaterial Duragen PlusTM, containing collagen type 1, to repair traumatic spinal cord injury and Simon’s talk used an alternative approach to PNR engineering Neural Tissue from Decellularised Biomaterials. Both these talks compliment my own research in PNR. Overall, the virtual conference was a huge success and I would like to thank the organisers for including my work in the programme.


Caroline submitted the blog as part of the conference competition. She has been selected and has won herself an intensive 2-day training course in lyphilisation sponsered by Biopharma Group. Well done!

Dr Paul Roach, UKSB President

Dr Caroline J Harrison Lab-2-Lab Award

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Bioengineering and Healthcare Technologies Group,School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield

Host laboratory:
Prof Alastair Sloan, Dr Wayne Nishio Ayre and Mr Jabur Khan The Mineralised Tissue Group, Dental School, Cardiff University

The purpose of the placement was to develop an ex vivo bone infection model to screen antimicrobial and osteogenic bone regeneration materials. The Mineralised Tissue Group at Cardiff University has considerable experience of developing these models so a 3 week placement was undertaken to in order to understand the methods involved in the development of ex vivo models.

Prof Alastair Sloan and Dr Wayne Nishio Ayre arranged that I could work with Mr Jabur Khan, a PhD student currently developing an ex vivo bone infection model. During the first week Jabur demonstrated the ex vivo bone infection model that he is currently developing and trained me in the various techniques including the sectioning of the bone and the setting up of Trowell-type cultures which are essential for keeping the bone viable whilst preventing excessive migration of the cells out of the bone. Jabur also showed me the immunohistological techniques he is currently optimising to be able to assess the distribution of biomarkers in the bone models. Furthermore, I observed the setting up of other ex vivo models including a model to assess the viability of the gingiva in a mandible culture model which Dr Amr Alraies is currently researching.

Over the next two weeks I was able to set up my own ex vivo cultures in order to investigate the effect of the dual action bone paste currently under development by the research team at The University of Sheffield. It was very useful to get hands on experience setting up the model as well as investigating different methods to apply the paste to the model. I assessed my models using viability assays and histological techniques. My lab work went very smoothly which was in part due to the fantastic technical support staff at the School of Dentistry, University of Cardiff. The laboratory managers and technicians including Dr Fiona Gagg, Dr Sarah Youde and Ms Wendy Rowe all provided excellent inductions and support material, which allowed me to work in the laboratories with ease and confidence.

I was very pleased with the consistency of the data from the assays I carried out, and I would say this was my professional highlight of the visit. My personal highlights were some lovely sunny lunches in the small nature haven provided directly outside the entrance of the University Hospital of Wales (see picture). Due to the success of this placement we are now looking forward to establishing future collaborative projects between the Mineralised Tissue Group at Cardiff University and the Bioengineering and Healthcare Technologies Group at The University of Sheffield.

Gloria Young UKSB 2017

I am a second year PhD student at Imperial College London, researching hybrid materials for use in cartilage replacement applications. Receiving a travel award from UKSB allowed me to attend the ESB 2017 conference in Athens and to give a presentation of my work. This was the first presentation I had given outside of my home university, and as such was a great experience in building confidence in communicating science and speaking in front of an international audience. ESB represented an important opportunity for discussing and developing my research with other researchers from a range of backgrounds and with a huge variety of expertise in the field of biomaterials. The feedback and scrutiny my work received has been a stepping-stone in developing the project into the final year of my PhD. Additionally, as a result of a meeting at the conference I have begun a short secondment in Chile, an amazing opportunity which would not have been possible without attending ESB.

Gloria Young, Imperial College London. October 2017 

Banner caption: SH-SY5Y stained with actin and DAPI
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