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NDORMS DPhil & MSc by Research


  • Bioreactor Design
  • Tendon Tissue Engineering


Soft tissue tears, such as torn tendons and ligaments, are common and can occur following a trauma (e.g a sport injury) or a disease (e.g. tendinopathy). As our population is aging, they represent a substantial and growing social and economic burden. These injuries often cause significant pain and loss of function. Unrepaired tears grow in size and very large tears are associated with joint failure and the development of osteoarthritis. In patients with persistent symptoms, surgical repair is commonly performed. However, patient’s outcomes are not promising as the rate of soft tissue repairs failing is still high. For the rotator cuff tendons at the shoulder joint, 40% (small to medium tears) to 90% (large tears) of surgical repairs fail within the first few months after surgery due to poor healing, despite advances in surgical techniques. For patients with major tissue loss, tendon autograft transplantation may be performed. However, this approach remains limited, mainly due to concerns related to donor-site morbidity.

A promising translational approach to the treatment of soft tissue tears is the use of engineered autografts. This involves the development of bioreactors that generate soft tissues in vitro using the patient’s cells, scaffolds and suitable biochemical and mechanical stimulations. However, in order to provide functional tendon grafts and meet the complex requirements of in vitro tendon engineering, advanced bioreactors are needed. In particular, current tendon bioreactors have been mostly designed to provide uniaxial cyclic loading (stretching), while stresses experienced by tissues in vivo are multi-axial.

By mimicking the human skeletal structure and the body movements, musculoskeletal humanoids could help to overcome the limitations of current bioreactors and assist in the growth of clinically relevant musculoskeletal tissue grafts such as tendons. 

The overall aim of this research project is to design a novel bioreactor system in order to investigate the feasibility of using musculoskeletal humanoid robots for tendon tissue engineering.

Useful references

Mouthuy P-A, Zargar N, Hakimi O, Lostis E, Carr A, (2015) " Fabrication of continuous electrospun filaments with potential for use as medical fibres". Biofabrication 7, 025006.

Mouthuy P-A. and Carr A. (2017) Growing tissue grafts on humanoid robots: A future strategy in regenerative medicine? Science Robotics, 2, eaam5666

Training opportunities

The Botnar Research Centre plays host to the University of Oxford's Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences, which enables and encourages research and education into the causes of musculoskeletal disease and their treatment. Training will be provided in techniques including:  prototyping with 3D printing, scaffold manufacture, CAD drawing, cell culture, cell and tissue characterisation methods

A core curriculum of lectures will be taken in the first term to provide a solid foundation in a broad range of subjects including musculoskeletal biology, inflammation, epigenetics, translational immunology, tissue engineering and data analysis.

Students will attend weekly seminars within the department and those relevant in the wider University.

Students will be expected to present data regularly to the research groups involved and the department and to attend external conferences to present their research globally.

Students will have the opportunity to work with external groups such as the Tissue Engineering group from the Engineering Department in Oxford and the group for Robotics and Embedded Systems from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Details of the research group

This multidisciplinary project is part of a new research programme led by Dr Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy that aims to investigate the potential to use humanoid robots as a platform for musculoskeletal tissue engineering applications.

Students applying for this project are expected to have a degree in mechanical, chemical or biomedical engineering (or similar).



The department accepts applications throughout the year but it is recommended that, in the first instance, you contact the relevant supervisor(s) or the Graduate Studies Officer ( who will be able to advise you of the essential requirements.

Interested applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class BSc degree or equivalent, and will also need to provide evidence of English language competence. The University requires candidates to formally apply online and for their referees to submit online references via the online application system.

The application guide and form is found online and the DPhil or MSc by research will commence in October 2018.

When completing the online application, please read the University Guide.


Prof Andrew Carr

Prof Cathy Ye (Engineering Department)

External Advisor

Rafael Hostettler (Technical University of Munich, Germany)


Project reference number #NDORMS-2018/3


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