Bone tissue for craniomaxillofacial reconstruction

We are looking for highly motivated students to contribute to our research. Are you interested in manipulating stem cells, biomaterials, immunology, implantation, bioreactors and/or 3D bioprinting and do you want to contribute to the development of new therapies for the treatment of bone defects? Then we have a nice research opportunity for you!

We offer interesting and challenging research projects and writing assignments/theses at the department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at UMC Utrecht. The general research aim is to find new regenerative therapies for treating bone defects with a strong translational focus. We try to help the body to heal itself using two approaches: (1) vascularization of bone, and (2) bone formation via cartilage.

Project 1: Creating vascularized bone

Your project will be part of our research line, in which we aim to regenerate vascularized bone tissue from stem cells. The challenges or projects that we are working on, include: vascularizing the tissue (see figure below), selecting the optimal biomaterial, 3D design & printing of a mandibular construct, and perfusion of engineered vasculature.

Left picture: bilateral mandibular reconstruction (Foley et al., 2013). Right picture: CD31 staining of self-assembled in vitro prevascular structures in a hydrogel.

Project 2: Creating bone from cartilage

This project will be part of a research line where we focus on engineering cartilage from bone marrow-derived stem cells, mimicking the pathway of bone formation as it occurs in the growth plates. These cartilage templates are implanted in in vivo models where they are converted into bone tissue. A current focus is also on the interplay of bone regeneration with the immune system.

Left picture: Spherical stem cell culture containing cartilage tissue (brown) and the onset of mineralization (purple). Together, these make a good template for bone formation. Right picture: in vivo bone formation with bone marrow cavities from one of our biomaterials with a cartilage stem cell culture after 8 weeks of implantation.


In both project examples we offer several of the following aspects: cell and tissue culture, stem cell isolation and differentiation, co-culture models, 3D bioprinting, biomaterial optimization, perfusion bioreactors, (confocal/fluorescence) microscopy, histology, immunohistochemistry, in vivo experiments. We are looking for motivated and enthusiastic master students in biomedical sciences (Regenerative Medicine/Biofabrication/Infection & Immunity), SUMMA, Biomedical Engineering, or Biotechnology to complete our research team. Both students looking for research project and writing assignments/theses are welcome. Please contact Dr. Debby Gawlitta for more information ( Do not forget to include your CV, preferred internship period and specific research interests.