Currently there is a worldwide shortage of suitable donor tissue for corneal transplantations, and one way to overcome this problem is by means of tissue engineering an artificial cornea . The challenge of this approach lies in the recreation of functional tissue that has similar characteristics in terms of tissue shape, transparency, optical performance and mechanical stability as the original tissue. The cornea might look like a relatively simple tissue, however a lot of principles behind the overall structure and the microarchitecture of the collagen is still unknown.
In this project you look at the capacity of corneal specific cells to control both the overall shape and ECM microarchitecture of engineered tissues as it is expected that both are important for the engineering of functional tissue in vitro. This is both done on a micro- and macro scale by both controlling the cell-ECM interactions of keratocytes and the overall mechanical properties of gels. The project will entail the fabrication of gels, patterning of protein on a range of materials, cell culture work and analysis of the engineered construct on both the micro and macro level.
 P. Gain, R. Jullienne, Z. He, M. Adossary, S. Acquart, F. Cognasse & G. Thuret, “Global Survey of Corneal Transplantation and Eye Banking”, JAMA Ophthalmology, 134(2), 2016