ESR 4: Examination of factors that promote the differentiation of mesenchymal cells to scar-free fibroblasts – The Netherlands

This vacancy is closed

Host institution:  VU Medical Center Amsterdam (VUMC), The Netherlands


  • Project lead: Prof. Dr. Esther Middelkoop, (VUMC, Dept. Plastic, Reconstructive & Hand Surgery)
  • Main supervisor: Dr. Magda Ulrich, (Association of Dutch Burn Centers)
  • Co-supervisor: Dr. Bouke Boekema (Association of Dutch Burn Centers)

Enrolment PhD training program: VUMC

Planned secondments:

Brief description:

The microenvironment is determined by the extracellular matrix (ECM) and soluble factors direct cell and tissue function. In full-thickness skin wounds, this regulatory microenvironment is absent. Mesenchymal cells migrate into the wound area and start to repair lost tissue without the proper signals to regenerate the skin. This often leads to the formation scar tissue instead of normal skin. In contrast to full-thickness wounds in adults, wounds in foetal skin during early stages of development heal via tissue regeneration and do not result in scar formation. It is thought that the microenvironment created by foetal mesenchymal cells direct the mesenchymal cells towards a scarless phenotype whereas in adults the wound associated cells create a scar forming environment skewing the cells into a scar phenotype. Although differential expression of various ECM components between adult and foetal skin and scar tissue have been described, the key elements that induce skin regeneration are still not known.

In this project we will investigate the differences between the ECM created by different mesenchymal cell populations and study how the ECM can influence the phenotype of mesenchymal cells. We will investigate the influence of different foetal ECM components and soluble factors on the mesenchymal cell phenotype.

Ultimately we aim to prepare an artificial ECM which includes anti-scarring components.

Objective 1. Investigate the influence of various mesenchymal cell populations on scarring.

Objective 2. Investigate the influence of the extracellular matrix, soluble factors and wound environment on scarring.

Objective 3. Asses the in vitro anti-scarring potential of collagen scaffolds, functionalised with foetal components.

Project specific requirements:

  • MSc in a biomedical direction
  • Preferably have experience with cell culture and cell-based assays