MSc Biomaterials

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Natural Materials & Biological Matrices

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS65402
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex environment composed of a variety of proteins and sugars with specific functions. This unit will allow you to gain an in-depth understanding of the individual components, which make up the ECM, concentrating on structure-function relationships. The understanding of each component is important for the design and development of biomaterials that mimic the ECM structure.

An essential part of each lecture is a discussion of the application of the ECM in/to biomaterials, both discussing the use of matrix-resident proteins/sugars in biomaterial design and the use of synthetic biomaterials to mimic the ECM. We will use recently- published primary research papers to provide material for discussion.


The unit aims to:

  • Expand and develop knowledge and understanding of the extracellular matrix and its importance in tissue development. This includes the various components of the matrix as well as their functions individually and acting in concert.
  • Introduce the design and use of biomaterials to mimic the natural extracellular matrix.
  • Introduce you to the use of statistical theory to develop design equations for the structure of electrospun polymer fibre networks to mimic the extracellular matrix for tissue engineering applications.


Learning outcomes

A greater depth of the learning outcomes will be covered in the following sections:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Intellectual skills
  • Practical skills
  • Transferable skills and personal qualities

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, team project, personal assignment, presentations and reports. Reviewing of a published research article in lectures will be followed up with Blackboard-based questions to help students critically evaluate the studies.



Knowledge and understanding

  • Explain the structure and role of all the major matrix components and how these interact in the various matrices found within the body.
  • Explain how the characteristics of these matrices change as the body ages or during disease.
  • Explain how biomaterials can be used to mimic the extracellular matrix and how these would be specialised for various applications.
  • Use theory to predict the influence of fibre and network variables on the structure of electrospun polymer fibre networks and hence their suitability for use as scaffolds in tissue engineering.
  • Explain how the structure of the extracellular matrix in collagenous soft tissues affects its mechanical properties.

Intellectual skills

  • Evaluate and critique journal papers on biomaterials and the extracellular matrix.
  • Derive and calculate key parameters that describe the structure and mechanics of fibre networks.

Practical skills

  • Acquire experience in working with team members as a group.
  • Reflect and improve your presentation skills.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Analytical capability and group work.
  • Critical review.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

Feedback given (written and verbal)

Recommended reading

Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th edition by Bruce Alberts  (provided in Blackboard and by the Library)

The Extracellular Matrix Facts Book, Shirley Ayad et.el., 2nd Edition (provided in Blackboard and by the Library)


Biochemistry, 5th edition by Lubert Stryer (provided in Blackboard and by the Library)


W.W. Sampson. Modelling Stochastic Fibrous Materials with Mathematica. Springer-Verlag, London, 2009; available to students as an e-book from University Library.


P. Fratzl. Collagen: Structure and mechanics. Springer, New York, 2008


Other specific reading material is provided on Bb.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Olga Tsigkou Unit coordinator

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