Naveen Mekhileri's PhD sounds like a sci-fi film.
“It is about a machine that prints human tissue! And no, it is not out of a sci-fi movie.”
It's not everyone who gets to describe their PhD thesis like this.
Naveen Mekhileri is working with the University of Otago's CReATE group – the Christchurch Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering Group – and the Otago Medical School, on his PhD.
“What I'm trying to do is develop a device that is integrated into a 3D printer to print tissue – specifically trying to 3D print cartilage tissue with the intention of replacing a damaged cartilage.”
Cartilage does not have the ability to specifically regenerate or repair itself easily, unlike some other tissues in the body.
“If you think of pre-formed tissue balls as Lego blocks, then, like assembling Lego pieces to form an object, tissue balls can be assembled into a scaffold to form a larger piece of tissue.”
“I've always found both technology and biology very interesting. Ever since I was a child I always found the way our body worked to be very magical, something I couldn't explain.”
Naveen followed this interest after his undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, India, by undertaking a Masters in Science in Bioengineering from the University of Nottingham, in England.
He then ended up in Christchurch, at the University of Otago. How? “A bit of luck really. I was looking out to work in a multi-disciplinary area and my primary supervisor (Dr Tim Woodfield) was looking for a student with my kind of background, and… it was a perfect fit.”
Naveen has fallen in love with Christchurch, where he is based at the University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine and co-supervised by Professor Gary Hooper and Dr Kenny Chitcholtan.
“I quite like how there are a things you can do outdoors in and around Christchurch, the pretty view overlooking the Southern Alps and Avon river from the Otago building in Christchurch and new buildings popping around corner every other day.
The good thing about studying at the Christchurch campus is that the most people who work around you are into research and are very excited about it...
“The good thing about studying at the Christchurch campus is that the most people who work around you are into research and are very excited about it, and since it is not very spread out, you get to approach fellow researchers quite casually and have a chat with them about your work. Also it sure does help your research that the hospital is next door, and is integrated with the research department.”