Flagship 6: Innovative new strategies for musculoskeletal & soft tissue repair


Skeletal tissue engineering represents a novel leap forward in clinical practice and a new frontier in skeletal medicine. This is a multidisciplinary field in its youth but it is expanding fast. Skeletal tissue engineering requires the presence of a biocompatible scaffold that supports cell growth and enhances the native tissue repair process.

The global regenerative medicine/tissue engineering and cell therapy market is an important growth area. From its infancy twenty years ago, it is estimated to reach US$36.9 billion in 2019, with orthopaedic/musculoskeletal applications accounting for over half of this industry (Fig 1).

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Figure 1: The global tissue engineering and cell therapy market

This project combines research expertise in bone, tendon and cartilage biology, with experience in translational in vitro and in vivo models. This is complemented by advanced technology platforms and expertise in 3D Printing and Biofabrication of scaffolds and multiscale computational modelling. Our multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians based at the partner universities enable development and application of translational regenerative medicine approaches for orthopaedic tissues. This unique research and training environment includes orthopaedic registrars, bioengineers and cell biologists working amongst senior clinicians and researchers at masters, PhD and postdoc level to deliver novel research capability for clinical and commercial application with industry partners. In the last three years: two orthopaedic registrars has completed outstanding lab-based postgraduate degrees (MSc and PhD), a third orthopaedic registrar is nearing the end of his excellent lab-based PhD, while a fourth orthopaedic registrar has just initiated another lab-based PhD. In addition, three competent bioengineering students completed an MSc (now moved into a PhD program in computational modelling) and two PhDs in mechanobiology. Our research has led to multiple presentations at international conferences, as well as publications in international journals of high repute.


Principal Investigators

University of Auckland

University of Otago

Associate Investigators

University of Auckland

  • Dr David Musson
  • Dr Dorit Naot
  • Associate Professor Ashvin Thambyah
  • Dr Sue McGlashan

University of Otago, Christchurch

  • Dr Khoon Lim

Clinical Partners

  • Professor Gary Hooper
  • Mr Jacob Munro
  • Mr John Ferguson
  • Mr Brendan Coleman
  • Mr Jeremy Simcock
  • Mr David Keiser
  • Mr Simon Young
  • Dr Ryan Gao
  • Dr Matthew Street
  • Dr Mark Zhu

Our Work

The initial milestones, with an indication of current progress are:

1. Biofabricated Scaffolds for Rotator Cuff Repair

2. Scaffolds and Biofabrication for Bone Repair

3. In Vitro and In Vivo Evaluation of Scaffolds

Overall, this musculoskeletal repair flagship is applying advanced biofabrication and biomaterials/bio-ink technology, as well as in-depth biological knowledge and expertise in a range of assessment tools, to translate outcomes from promising research platforms into marketable therapeutic products. Throughout these milestones we constantly interact with clinicians and commercial entities within New Zealand and internationally. This platform of research has strong people development - not only are we producing a platform for orthopaedic research training but also multidisciplinary biologists and bioengineers nationally. We are using established basic principles and methodologies to perform this research and not developing new basic science. It is indeed translational research.


  • University of Auckland
  • University of Otago



  1. Squeaking in Ceramic-on-ceramic Hips: No Evidence of Contribution from the Trunnion Morse Taper
  2. Multifunctional Thermoresponsive Designer Peptide Hydrogels
  3. Modular Tissue Assembly Strategies for Biofabrication of Engineered Cartilage


  1. The Activity of Adiponectin in Bone
  2. Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors Regulate OPG through Inhibition of PDGFRbeta
  3. Applying Physiologically Relevant Strains to Tenocytes in an In-vitro cell Device Induces In-vivo like Behaviours
  4. Signal Processing and Event Detection of Hip Implant Acoustic Emissions
  5. Stem Cells for Bone Regeneration: Role of Trophic Factors
  6. Structure Activity Relationship Study on the Peptide Hormone Preptin, a Novel Bone-anabolic Agent for the Treatment of Osteoporosis
  7. New Visible Light Photo-initiating System for Improved Print Fidelity in Gelatine Based Bio-inks
  8. Reduced Bone Density and Cortical Bone Indices in Female Adiponectin-Knockout Mice
  9. Structure-mechanical Property Correlations of Hydrogel Forming β-sheet Peptides
  10. Synthesis and in vitro Bone Cell Activity of Analogues of the Cyclohexapeptide Dianthin G
  11. Short Anabolic Peptides for Bone Growth
  12. Disuse Osteoporosis: A Better Understanding of Pathophysiology May Lead to Potential Therapies
  13. Additive Manufacturing of a Photo-Cross-Linkable Polymer via Direct Melt Electro-spinning Writing For Producing High Strength Structures
  14. Biofabrication: Reappraising the Definition in an Evolving Field
  15. Return to Work for Injured Survivors of the Christchurch Earthquake: Influences in the First Two Years


  1. The Rates of Wear of X3 Highly Cross-linked Polyethylene at Five Years when Coupled with a 36 mm Diameter Ceramic Femoral Head in Young Patients
  2. Augmentation with an Ovine Forestomach Matrix Scaffold Improves Histological Outcomes of Rotator Cuff Repair in a Rat Model
  3. The Importance of Connexin Hemichannels during Chondroprogenitor Cell Differentiation in Hydrogel versus Microtissue Culture Models
  4. In Vitro Evaluation of a Novel Non-mulberry Silk Scaffold for Use in Tendon Regeneration
  5. Positive and Negative Bioimprinted Polymeric Substrates: New Platforms for Cell Culture
  6. The Effects of Topical Agents on Paranasal Sinus Mucosa Healing: A Rabbit Study


  1. Three-dimensional Assembly of Tissue-engineered Cartilage Constructs Results in Cartilaginous Tissue Formation without Retainment of Zonal Characteristics