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Donor variation and optimisation of 3D cell culture system for cartilage tissue regeneration

A 2020/2021 Summer Studentship research project

Student: Valery Yizhou Li
Supervisors: Dr Grabriella Lindberg, Professor Tim Woodfield
Sponsor: Canterbury Medical Research Foundation


Fabricating 3D-scaffolds containing cells, such as stem cells or chondrocytes, represents an attractive strategy to repair damaged cartilage tissue. However, these cell based platforms are not consistently successful due to large donor variability. The regeneration capacity of cells decrease with age while it is furthermore known that Māori and Polynesians have the worse postoperative outcomes compared with non-Māori patients. There is subsequently a need for understanding these demographical differences and further develop better 3D culture systems which counteracts any reduced cell regeneration potential. In this study, we thus aim to study differences in cellular performance between Māori and non-Māori patients and subsequently optimise the 3D-scaffolds used to guide the tissue repair process.


Elucidating donor-to-donor variability and optimising 3D cell culture systems will aid in eliminating ethnic inequities to better meet the prevalent clinical issue of joint damage.


A wide range of cells (12x Māori and Polynesian, and 29x non-Māori donors) and biomimetic scaffold materials, such as hyaluronic acid and gelatin, are available to fabricate cartilage tissue based on previously established protocols. Cellular regeneration capacity will be assessed using biochemical assays and histological staining. The techniques and assays required to be carried out for the project are routinely conducted in the research group.

Student researcher’s component of the study

Help screen donor-to-donor performances and work independently to optimise 3D-scaffold composition to drive cartilage repair using donors with reduced healing capacity.

Student prerequisites

Highly motivated student with interdisciplinary interest in cell culture, biology and chemistry.