Skin Bioengineering Laboratory

Heather Cleland


A/Prof Heather Cleland

Research staff

Senior Research Fellow

  • Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh

Research Fellow

  • Dr Ilia Banakh
  • Dr Perdita Cheshire

Quality Officer

  • Mr Dion Martinus

PhD student

  • Ms Premlatha Jagadeesan

Collaborators (past & present)

  • Dr Marisa Herson, Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria
  • Dr Pretindar Kaur, Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre
  • Prof Neil Cameron, Monash Department of Material Engineering
  • Dr Stephen Goldie, Department of Medicine, CCS

Skin Bioengineering Laboratory

Skin tissue laboratory group
2015 L-R: Dr Perdita Cheshire, A/Prof Heather Cleland, Ms Michelle Paul , Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh, Mr Dion Martinus

About us

Burns are a common traumatic injury, with approximately 1% of the population of Australia and New Zealand sustaining burns each year. Although many of these are minor, over 50% will affect daily life, many of which will have ongoing consequences. Severe burns are associated with considerable morbidity and mortality, and are among the most expensive traumatic injuries to treat and manage, entailing long periods of hospitalisation and rehabilitation and costly wound and scar treatment. The gold standard treatment for severe burns is split thickness skin grafts (STSGs). However, autografts are usually insufficient to cover burn wounds in one stage of grafting when the total body surface area involved exceeds 40% and donor sites become a limiting factor.

Our laboratory is uniquely positioned to address some of the challenges in burns treatment. As part of the Victorian Adult Burns Service, which provides the state wide service for all adult severely injured burn patients, we are committed to a bench to bedside model of research to provide our patients with lifesaving therapies.

Position vacant

Wanted! A research scientist to join a small and active group of scientists committed to translational research in skin tissue engineering at The Victorian Adult Burns Service, The Alfred, collaborating with Monash University scientists in the field. To be successful for this role you will need to have a PhD in cell biology or equivalent and proven experience in primary cell culture and cell biology techniques. Experience in skin biology, wound healing, platelet biology and mouse models are highly desirable. You will require to work independently and in a team and have a proven track record in producing high quality research outcomes and manuscript preparation.  Further information.

30 Jun 2016 deadline: MIME PhD Scholarship available for regenerative medicine (burns)

See more about the PhD project on the development of an engineered skin substitute for the treatment of burns injuries.

Research Programmes

Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh explains about the
lab's tissue engineering research. 3:00 min

Cultured Epithelial Autografts (CEA) for treatment of burns

Using CEA technique we are able to culture a patient's own keratinocytes from a small skin biopsy to obtain large amounts of cultured epithelium within 3 weeks in a clinical trial setting.

Tissue-engineering a Human Skin Equivalent (HSE)

A major limitation of CEA sheets is that they require signals from the dermis in vivo to proliferate and to form functional skin upon grafting and cannot be used alone to treat deep burns . Our long term goal is to develop an autologous skin composite to replace both dermis and epidermis in a one stage procedure. We are currently conducting experiments to determine optimal methods for keratinocyte culture on commercially available ‘dermal’ scaffolds. HSEs are subsequently tested in animal mouse models.

We use a wide range of techniques in our studies including primary cell culture, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, FACS, RT-PCR and animal models.

Optimising Adult Keratinocyte Growth Conditions

Adult keratinocytes have limited proliferative abilities in culture. Established techniques for CEA culture rely on murine fibroblasts as feeders and may not be ideal for clinical applications. We are examining alternative methods to optimize keratinocyte proliferation in culture using defined factors.

Identification/Isolation of Stem Cell population from Adult Skin

In vivo, epidermal proliferation occurs in the basal layer. Basal layer epidermal cells (mostly keratinocytes, shown below) can be divided into three subpopulations: keratinocyte stem cells (KSC), transit amplifying cells (TA), and cells committed to differentiation (ED) based on cell kinetics. We are interested in using known stem cell markers as well as novel methods to isolate human adult epithelial stem cells to enhance regeneration capacities of engineered skin.

Postgraduate study

Please contact Dr Shiva Akbarzadeh for further information about Honours and PhD projects and programs of study. Training in skin tissue engineering is also available for scientists and surgeons from developing countries.

Contact details: ph +61 3 9903 0616 email:

Recent publications

Media profile