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3D-biofabrication of zonal cartilage

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine (Christchurch)
Dr Gabriella Lindberg, Professor Tim Woodfield


3D-Biofabrication of Zonal Cartilage imageThis 3-year PhD project will be focused on advanced bioinks and thermoplastic scaffolds for 3D bioprinting of hybrid constructs for musculoskeletal regeneration, specifically targeting cartilage engineering.

Nearly one in six New Zealand adults suffer from osteoarthritis, making it the most common joint disorder in our day causing significant amount of pain, disability as well as financial costs ($3.2 billion per year). To date, the gold standard clinical treatment remains harvesting a portion of the patient’s own tissue, which is limited by availability, challenges with donor site morbidity and/or need for costly revision surgeries due to incomplete healing. The absence of a roadmap for scalable, reproducible, large-scale bioactive graft materials and living tissues to repair damaged organs and tissues offers opportunities to instead develop cutting-edge 3D-biofabrication technologies; where smaller tissue units are spatially organised to create a larger, personalised, engineered construct.

In this project, we thus aim to produce orthopaedic replacement grafts by converging new generation bioinks and automated micro- and nano-scale 3D-bioassembly strategies to concurrently design biomimetic and spatially ordered composite scaffolds for functional replacement of load-bearing tissues. In this hybrid approach, living bioinks can be accurately placed within a polymer mesh to endure high mechanical loads while simultaneously guiding tissue repair. This project will aid the vision to alleviate current issues faced in shortage of personalised orthopaedic replacement grafts for healing of common joint defects.

Preferred Student Expertise

We are looking for an enthusiastic, proactive and dynamic student to undertake their studies in this multidisciplinary field. The PhD candidate should hold a BSc (Hons) or MSc preferably in biomedical engineering, chemistry/materials science, or cell biology.

Experience with in vitro cell culture and biochemical analysis techniques is highly valued. Furthermore, the candidate should be highly motivated and have excellent oral and written communication skills in order to manage collaborative relationships with research project external partners.

You will be joining a multidisciplinary research team of bioengineers, biologists and orthopaedic surgeons working at the interface of stem cell-biology, biomaterials science and engineering. There will further be significant opportunities for PhD candidates to interact with medical device industry partners as well as orthopaedic and veterinary surgeons. You will work in close collaboration with international collaborators at the University of Würzburg, Germany and University of Pennsylvania, USA.

To Apply

All candidates with high motivation, independent thinking, and good communication skills (both written and oral) should apply. Please send a copy of your full CV including references to publications/conference proceedings; copies of undergraduate/ postgraduate academic transcripts; the names of two referees, and any other supporting information relevant to the project (e.g. lab/assay skills, software/hardware expertise) to

The applicant must be eligible for admission to the PhD programme at the University of Otago. Furthermore, due to the current COVID-19 border closure, the applicant must currently reside in New Zealand.


The research will primarily take place at the University of Otago, Christchurch; a multi-disciplinary campus recognised for its outstanding reputation for combining basic science and clinical health research. The University of Otago is a member of the Mataraki network of universities and rated 5 stars for quality in 2018 per QS stars rankings. Christchurch is a vibrant city based on the coast and close to the Southern Alps of New Zealand, with ample opportunities for outdoor activities locally including mountain biking, surfing, hiking and skiing. Christchurch was recently rated as one the world’s top 10 cities to visit by Lonely Planet.

For a video all about Christchurch and what it’s like to undertake research in the CReaTE Group and University of Otago Christchurch campus, visit

For lots more information about the CReaTE Group, facilities, staff, students and projects, visit


Deborah McMahon