Cardiovascular Tissue Regeneration

ESR project


Title of project

Tissue engineering for urethral reconstruction

We offer

A 4-year PhD student position in the interdisciplinary area of regenerative medicine. Your project will focus on the generation of a patients specific graft to use in urethral reconstruction surgery for congenital and acquired urethral diseases.

We ask

You hold a Master’s degree in in (veterinary) medicine, biomedical sciences, biology or in a related area. You have affinity with both biology and engineering, and thrive in a multidisciplinary research environment. Experience with advanced cell culture (3D culture, dynamic conditions), biomaterials and/or animal surgery are of benefit.


The Department of Urology at the UMC Utrecht is a referral center for complex urethral reconstruction. Urethral reconstructive surgery is performed in male patients with urethral strictures, but also for correction of congenital disorders such as hypospadias. In 2014 we started a research line with focus on tissue engineering (TE) for urethral reconstruction, with special emphasis on the regeneration of the surrounding urethral tissue.


Most complications after urethral reconstruction surgery are related to a suboptimal blood supply due to the absence of adequate vascular embedding. Success of the treatment is depending on the health of the tissue surrounding the urethra, i.e. the corpus spongiosum (CS). The CS plays a major role in supporting the urethra, both in vascular as well as mechanical support. TE of the urethra should be combined with a reconstruction of the CS. New scaffolds need to be developed, and seeded with endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells to achieve an endothelium surrounded by smooth muscle as in the natural CS. Cells can be seeded in a hydrogel, either based on extracellular matrix components or a hybrid gel of biomaterials with synthetic polymers, to form a capillary network in the gel. In this project the ESR will develop towards a regenerative medicine specialist. The ESR will be trained in all aspects of this regenerative medicine subspecialty, including learning from development and nature, material sciences, cell biology and biofabrication. The scaffold will be developed in collaboration with clinicians and industry and results will be shared in scientific literature and at meetings.


  • You have a Master in (veterinary) medicine, biomedical sciences, biology or a related areas.
  • You have affinity with both biology and engineering, and are challenged by clinically driven research questions.
  • You are a team player and thrive in a multidisciplinary research environment.
  • Experience with cell culture, biomaterials, animal surgery and/or bioreactor technology are of benefit.

Contact person & more information

Dr. Petra de Graaf, UMC Utrecht


This project is part of RESCUE, a multidisciplinary, intersectoral and interdisciplinary PhD training programme in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells organised by UMC Utrecht (coordinator) and Utrecht University. RESCUE is partly funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020's Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND scheme. There are specific requirements with regards to English language and mobility for candidates who would like to take part in this programme. More information