Martin Lee Doctoral Scholarship Programme

Research topics

Students work on a range of projects around stem cell biology, inflammation and disease, and regenerative medicine to develop new therapies.

Microscope image of skiin
Epidermis of human earlobe skin. Image by: Dr Samuel Hess

IRR research themes

Research performed at IRR aims to develop new treatments for major diseases. Students on the programme will choose their research projects from a pool of projects proposed by group leaders at IRR. Projects will span the breadth of research areas at IRR and range from fundamental science to clinical and industrial translation projects. It is envisaged that some of the PhD projects will arise from rotation projects undertaken by the students in their first year.

At IRR's Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM), research is focused on understanding disease and the damage they do to the body, and on developing treatments to repair this damage.

Research groups at CRM focus on four main research themes:

  • Stem cell biology
  • Tissue homeostasis and repair
  • Reprogramming
  • Translational and clinical programmes

Research groups at CRM

Researchers at IRR's Centre for Inflammation Research (CIR) study the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory diseases.

Research groups at CIR focus on the following four key thematic areas:

  • Immune modulation and regulation of inflammation
  • Tissue remodelling and regeneration
  • Imaging inflammation
  • Pathway medicine

Research groups at CIR

Recent and current postgraduate research projects

Group leaders at IRR work across stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, reprogramming, inflammation and tissue repair topics. They study multiple diseases, including cancer, heart disease, liver failure, diabetes, and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Research projects undertaken by postgraduate students at IRR in recent years include:

Stem cell biology

  • Comparison of human oligodendrocytes derived from ES cells and in human adult brain
  • Reinnervation of healing skin wounds: the interaction between nerves and cutaneous stem cells
  • Forward engineering of mammalian self-organisation with a synthetic and quantitative toolkit
  • Lineage decisions of embryonic stem cells: exploring the links between morphogenesis and differentiation
  • Emergence of haematopoietic stem cells in the human embryo: gene expression analysis
  • Generation of fluorescent reporter hESC line for analysis of human haematopoietic stem cell development
  • Dissecting the role of Sox2 in pluripotency
  • Understanding movements, growth and lineages in a new model of early human spinal development

Tissue homeostasis, remodelling and repair

  • The role of direct cell-cell contacts in cancer initiation and early progression
  • Role of senescent cells in loss of function of the irradiation-injured salivary gland
  • Synthetic biology tools for interrogating cell-cell interactions
  • Elucidating the mechanisms underpinning vascular regeneration in the zebrafish heart
  • Exploration of sexual dimorphism in the macrophage populations of the salivary gland
  • Defining the role of the neutrophil in paracetamol-induced liver injury and regeneration
  • Exploration of inflammatory cell function during tumour initiation and tail fin regeneration in zebrafish larvae
  • The role of white matter damage and endothelial dysfunction in cerebral small vessel disease
  • Identification of cellular mechanisms that protect the heart against pathological fibrosis and death post-injury
  • Cellular sensing and responses in the ageing niche


  • Optimising differentiation condition of chemically reprogrammed liver progenitors (CLiPs)
  • Defining lineage plasticity of bile duct cells using transcriptomics and epigenomics
  • Reprogramming roadblocks during iPSC generation
  • Role of paracrine senescence in the differentiation of hepatic progenitor cells into functional hepatocytes
  • Investigating whether changes in cell orientation may influence the cell fate decision
  • Reprogramming of leukaemia-associated macrophages: A new approach to fight MLL-AF9 infant leukaemia
  • Single-cell RNA Seq analysis of human chemically induced liver progenitor (HCLiP)-derived spheroids
  • Reprogramming adult human hepatocytes into progenitors with unlimited proliferation and efficient differentiation capacities

Immune modulation and regulation of inflammation

  • Role of intestinal macrophage subsets in health, inflammation and repair
  • The influence of resident cell senescence on macrophage phenotype
  • Using computational modelling to predict metabolic nodes that dictate neutrophil function in the tissues
  • Cellular sensing and regulation via the Hippo pathway
  • Computational modelling of immune cell interactions in nerve regeneration
  • Understanding resident macrophage autonomy during inflammation
  • The role of macrophage phagocytosis in spinal cord regeneration
  • Regulation of macrophage polarisation by healthy and fibrotic extracellular matrix in skin

Translational and clinical programmes

  • Protein expression by scar-forming cells in biliary fibrosis
  • Investigating the role of oligodendrocyte ‘states’ to improve remyelination in MS
  • Macrophages derived in vitro from human pluripotent stem cells: a tool to manipulate macrophage phenotype and function and a potential source of cells for therapy
  • Driving human Kupffer cell differentiation using stem cell-derived liver tissue niches
  • Deciphering the interplay between macrophages and senescent cells in injury and regeneration following radiotherapy
  • Establishing a platform to investigate hepatic immune responses using human chemically reprogrammed liver progenitors (hCLiPS).