25 Sep 2012

OU PhD student wins first prize at international tissue engineering conference

Open University PhD student Melanie Georgiou won first prize for her oral presentation at the Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) World Congress in Vienna earlier this month (September 2012).

Melanie presented her interim findings on work using stem cells from adipose tissue, which is part of a bigger project to develop tissue-engineered implantable devices for the surgical repair of the peripheral nervous system.

Melanie Georgiou said: “It was a great opportunity to showcase our research and I feel honoured to have won! My research indicates that adipose tissue can be used as a source of cells that could be combined with natural biomaterials to engineer new nervous system tissue. Building replacement nerve tissue in this way may one day be useful in repairing peripheral nerves that have been damaged by trauma.”

Dr James Phillips, Lecturer in Health Sciences and Melanie’s PhD supervisor, said: “Melanie’s achievement is remarkable and her work has been instrumental in furthering the overall project. Peripheral nervous system injuries that result in extensive loss of nerve tissue can currently only be treated using grafts of healthy nerves from elsewhere in a patient, resulting in additional damage and limited functional recovery. To build an effective replacement tissue that could be used as an alternative to a nerve graft requires a source of suitable cells. Melanie demonstrated how cells from a patient’s fat tissue could potentially form the living cellular component of a tissue engineered replacement nerve. This part of the project involved a collaboration between the tissue engineers at the OU and adipose stem cell experts in Sweden.”

Melanie’s work is part of the work of The Open University’s Biomedical Research Network. Her supervisors are Dr James Phillips, Dr Jane Loughlin and Dr Jon Golding. Further information about this research can be found at:

Editor’s Notes
1. Five finalists presented their work for the prestigious Oral Presentation Award Session to an expert panel, who then led a question and answer session. The TERMIS World Congress involved more than 2500 delegates from 62 nations.

2. Dr Phillips’ research group presented three posters on their latest findings, in addition to Melanie’s talk. Abstracts are available via Open Research Online.

3. The Open University is a global leader in research and innovation. OU research ranks in the top third of UK universities, with 50% of its research deemed ‘internationally excellent’. It is research which influences global policy and enriches lives, particularly in developing countries where it has contributed to improved health. OU research is carried out in a strong research environment which has attracted a funding increase of over 20% since 2007-08. Research is carried out on campus or through the OU’s innovative online facilities or through one of its Affiliated Research Centres worldwide.

4. Research groups in Life Sciences work in neurosciences (including neuropathology and neuroimmunology), cellular immunology, the biology of ageing, gene expression and cognitive psychology. The laboratory facilities have recently been substantially expanded and include molecular genetics laboratories, a DNA-sequencing laboratory, dark rooms, tissue culture/time-lapse suites, electron microscopes, confocal microscope suite, histology and morphometric laboratories and a radiation suite which houses a cell harvester, beta scintillation and gamma counters.

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