Dr Hazel Fermor

BSc PhD
Lecturer in Musculoskeletal Regenerative Medicine
School of Biomedical Sciences

Background: (2006-2009) BSc Biology, University of York. (2019-2013) PhD, University of Leeds. (2013-2016) Research Fellow, University of Leeds. (2016-present) Lecturer, University of Leeds.

Contact: Garstang 6.57, +44(0) 113 34 35619, email address for  

Research Interests

Regenerative medical devices to prevent or delay the onset of osteoarthritis

I conduct my research in the School of Biomedical Sciences and also as part of the multidisciplinary Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (iMBE).

My primary research focus is on the development of novel early-intervention regenerative therapies for cartilage repair, to prevent or delay the onset of osteoarthritis (OA). OA affects 9 million people in the UK and causes severe pain and loss of mobility, with depression being a common co-morbidity. Although traditionally seen as a disease of the cartilage, OA is more commonly being recognised as a whole joint disease, progressing from pathologies not only in the cartilage but also the bones, ligaments and other musculoskeletal (MSK) tissues. My research interests therefore extend to all MSK tissues. I currently focus on interventions in the knee joint, but also pursue interests in the spine, hip and ankle.

Cartilage is unable to self-heal, so any initial damage to the tissue will progressively deteriorate with normal joint loading and movement. This eventually results in the need for total joint replacement. I am leading research into the development, assessment and translation of early intervention cartilage therapies. These fall under two categories (1) injectable self-assembling peptide hydrogels and (2) implantable decellularised osteochondral scaffolds. These regenerative therapies are intended to treat cartilage at different stages of disease progression.

(1)    Self-assembling peptide hydrogels

Softening of cartilage occurs after trauma and with age and is the result of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) loss from the tissue extracellular matrix. We have combined chondroitin sulphate (a GAG) with an 11 amino acid long peptide (P11). We are able to inject this mixture into cartilage where it self-assembles into a hygroscopic hydrogel. Using this technology we are able to restore the normal tissue GAG content and therefore normal biomechanical properties.

Current and future research aims to establish the most effective way to clinically administer the hydrogel into patients and to determine the longevity of cartilage repair.

(2)    Decellularised tissue scaffolds

Progressive cartilage damage is seen as surface fibrillation and tissue loss which cannot be adequately repaired by the body to restore a smooth articulating joint surface. At this stage, surgical interventions are required to replace the cartilage, however current therapies each have limitations. We propose to use an “off the shelf” decellularised osteochondral scaffold. We use a novel processing method to gently remove cells from tissues whilst maintaining the tissue structure and function. This results in a natural tissue scaffold with the properties of native tissues but which does not elicit an adverse immune response upon implantation. The scaffold will be repopulated with the patient’s own cells once implanted in the body to regenerate the damaged tissue. 

Research is currently underway in collaboration with our industry partners to pre-clinically assess the safety and efficacy of these scaffolds and also to enable scaled-up manufacture prior to translation of the technology.

Future research will develop a stratified range of scaffolds to suit the needs of various patient sub-sets and investigate the potential of decellularised osteochondral scaffolds to be used as matrices for regenerative cell therapy approaches.

 

Current and recent research funding: EPSRC

Industry partners: Tissue Regenix Group PLC, NHS BT Tissue and Eye Services.

 

Current Projects

Postgraduate

  • Development of a decellularised bone-disc-bone scaffold for intervertebral disc repair
  • Characterisation of subchondral bone in the osteoarthritic ankle
  • Characterisation of mesenchymal stem cells in the osteoarthritic ankle

Undergraduate

  • Self-assembling peptide chondroitin sulphate hydrogels as cell carriers
  • Restoration of cartilage proteoglycan content using self-assembling peptide chondroitin sulphate hydrogels
 

Faculty Research and Innovation



Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Clinical performance of existing and emerging cartilage repair/regeneration therapies
  • Cellular vs acellular approaches to cartilage repair
  • Sterilization methods for musculoskeletal biological scaffolds
  • Minimally invasive delivery methods for self-assembling hydrogels
  • Pre-clinical in vitro simulation or in vivo animal models for the assessment of cartilage repair

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Innovative manufacturing of decellularised MSK scaffolds
  • Sterilisation of decellularised MSK scaffolds
  • Self-assembling peptide hydrogels

See also:

Modules managed

MICR5100M - Tissue Engineering

Modules taught

BMSC1110/SPSC1220 - Foundation modules
BMSC1213 - Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills 2
BMSC2120 - Scientific Skills
BMSC3238 - Biomedical Nanotechnology
BMSC3301 - Research Project in Biomedical Sciences
MECH5002M - Cross displine lab placeement
MECH5007M - Systematic Review
MECH5490M - Biomaterials (Short Course)
MICR5100M - Tissue Engineering

Postgraduates

William Jones (Co-supervisor) 15% FTE
Halina Norbertczak (Co-supervisor) 25% FTE

Fermor HL, Russell SL, Williams S, Fisher J, Ingham E Development and characterisation of a decellularised bovine osteochondral biomaterial for cartilage repair. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine 26, 2015
DOI:10.1007/s10856-015-5517-0
View abstract

Fermor HL, McLure SWD, Taylor SD, Russell SL, Williams S, Fisher J, Ingham E Biological, biochemical and biomechanical characterisation of articular cartilage from the porcine, bovine and ovine hip and knee Bio-Medical Materials and Engineering 25 381-395, 2015
DOI:10.3233/BME-151533
View abstract

Fermor HL, McLure SWD, Taylor SD, Russell SL, Williams S, Fisher J, Ingham E Biological, biochemical and biomechanical characterisation of cartilage from the porcine, bovine and ovine hip and knee, 2012

Fermor H, Russell S, Williams S, Fisher J, Ingham E Engineering of natural cartilage substitution biomaterials European Cells and Materials 22 79-, 2011