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Professor Richard Oreffo DPhil, CBiol FSB

Professor of Musculoskeletal Science, Director; Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration

Professor Richard Oreffo's photo
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Professor Oreffo holds the chair of Musculoskeletal Science at Southampton and is Director of the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration of which he was a co-founder. He is internationally recognised for his work on skeletal biology and the mechanisms involved in skeletal stem cell differentiation and bone regeneration.

I am particularly interested in the application of bone stem cells and regenerative medicine strategies for the repair and regeneration of damaged skeletal tissue. We have the potential to make a difference through collaborative teams here at the University of Southampton to treat devastating bone conditions.


He leads the Bone and Joint Research Group, a large multidisciplinary research group, focused on developing strategies to repair bone & cartilage and understanding bone development; including the role of epigenetics in musculoskeletal diseases with translation a key personal driver. To achieve these goals, he has brought together and developed teams of clinicians and life scientists (including materials scientists, mathematicians, bio-informaticians) over the last fifteen years.

In 2014 his group conducted the first 3D titanium-bone stem cell impaction bone graft. His commitment to interdisciplinary research are exemplified by breakthrough publications on skeletal stem cells and nanotopography, bone regeneration as well as epigenetics in Osteoarthritis in Nature Materials, ACS Nano, Stem Cells, Small, Arthritis and Rheumatism and Advanced Materials. Richard has published more than 225 peer-reviewed papers (>9,000 citations; h-index 50), 20 reviews and book chapters, holds 6 patents and has won a number of awards for his research. As Associate Dean for International and Enterprise, he has established a number of industrial linkages and international collaborations (Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand as well as Europe) to aid the bone regeneration programmes.

Richard serves / has served on a number of Research Council Committees, Industrial committees and international advisory boards, holds a number of visiting professorships, an adjunct chair at King Saud University and is on the editorial boards of five journals. In 2009, he was appointed a Fellow of the Institute of Biology.



B.Sc. Honours, Biology, University of Liverpool, 1983

D.Phil. Vitamin A and Bone, University of Oxford, 1986

Appointments held

Demonstrator, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford. 1985-1986

Research Fellow, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology,

University of Texas, San Antonio, Texas, USA. 1987-1989

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, Cheshire, UK.1990-1991

Principal Research Scientist, Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, Cheshire, UK.1991-1993

MRC Research Fellow, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. 1993-1999

Non-Clinical lecturer, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.1999-2002

Senior lecturer, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.2002-2004

Reader, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK. 2004

Personal Chair in Musculoskeletal Science. 2004-present

Director of Enterprise – Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. 2005- 2013

Associate Dean (Innovation and Enterprise), Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. 2008-2010

Associate Dean Enterprise, Faculty of Medicine. 2010-2011

Associate Dean, International and Enterprise, 2011 - 2013

Adjunct Professor, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. 2010-present






Research interests

The aim of the group is to understand the mechanisms of bone development, growth and regeneration, how these differ in skeletal abnormalities and diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, and to what extent bone growth is programmed during fetal life.

Thus research in Professor Oreffo’s group is primarily centered on harnessing the potential of skeletal stem cells (whether derived from embryonic or fetal and adult sources) for the development of unique tissue engineering approaches for new cartilage and bone formation for orthopedic application. In parallel we are interested in the role of fetal programming as a consequence of maternal nutritional challenges on bone cell differentiation, activity, potential and bone function with age.

Skeletal Research - the potential of skeletal stem cells

The requirement for new bone to replace or restore the function of traumatised or degenerated bone, or for the replacement of lost mineralised tissue as a consequence of increasing age is a major clinical and socio-economic need. To date, bone formation stimulation regimes, although attractive, have yet to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

Research of the group has primarily centred on:

Understanding human skeletal stem cell biology and the development of unique tissue engineering approaches for cartilage and bone formation for orthopaedic application using human skeletal populations and, elucidating the role of fetal programming as a consequence of maternal nutritional challenge on mesenchymal progenitor cell differentiation, activity, potential and bone function with age.

This involves drawing together the elements of i) progenitor cell differentiation (specifically the control of mesenchymal stem/progenitor cell differentiation and plasticity), ii) generation of osteoconductive and inductive smart scaffold/materials (including the use of natural biomimetic environments and self -assembling scaffolds with appropriate extracellular matrix cues) and, iii) cell signal/growth factor biology to examine tissue regeneration.

Other areas of active research interest within the group include differentiation of pluripotent stem cells along the mesenchymal lineage as well as angiogenesis / revascularisation in tissue development.

The group is currently developing translational strategies for clinical application to couple cell technologies with biomimetic scaffolds in close collaboration with groups in the UK as well as international collaborations in Germany, Canada and the USA.

Thus current concepts, approaches and challenges from work in the group include:

i) The use of isolated and selected human osteoprogenitor cell populations with selected osteotropic agents in an attempt to modulate the phenotype of the skeletal stem cell to generate mineralised bone tissue,
ii) The role of epigenetics, maternal nutrition and intrauterine programming in skeletal development of related offspring
iii) Manipulation of the developmental potential of bone stem cells on modified biomimetic structures with select growth factors,
iv) Epidemiological Studies in Bone & Joint Research
v) Modelling of skeletal tissue formation – including gene network analysis as well as tissue growth modelling.
vi) Translation from bench to clinic

Although clinical efficacy has yet to be achieved, development of protocols, new tools and above all multidisciplinary approaches for de novo bone formation that utilise skeletal stem cells offer significant rewards for an increasing aged population both in terms of healthcare costs and, more importantly, improved quality of life.

Intrauterine Programming, Epigenetics, Skeletal Development and Bone Diseases

In collaboration with Prof. Cyrus Cooper (MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit) members of HDH and a number of international collaborators we are investigating, using a variety of animal models, how maternal protein deficiency affects bone growth. Our current ex vivo analysis of bone populations shows an important role of maternal nutrition in subsequent fetal bone development with significant implications in understanding the subsequent development of bone chronic diseases in later life such as osteoarthritis.

Growth, analysis and characterization (a-g)
Skeletal stem cells
Growth of skeletal stem cells (a) and their expression of a marker enzyme
Making Bone
Growing on allograft bone for clinical application
Skeletal Stem Cells
Slice of trabecular bone captured using Computer Tomography
Bone Development

Academic unit(s)

Human Development and Health Academic Units

Affiliate academic unit(s)

Human development and physiology Research group

Research project(s)

Application of ultrasound standing wave fields for augmentation of cartilage bioengineering strategies

Targeting stem cells with nanoparticles

Promoting tissue regeneration by carrying drugs and molecules directly to stem cells.

The effects of substrate mechanics on keratinocytes and epidermal stem cell behaviour at wound sites

How does the stiffness of a wound affect how it heals?

The healing of a skin wound is a highly co-ordinated series of events involving both biochemical and biomechanical signalling. We are trying to understanding how the mechanical properties of a healing wound affects how it heals.

Postgraduate Supervision (higher research degrees)

2002 Rahul Tare PhD

2002 Xuebin Yang PhD

2003 Daniel Howard PhD

2006 Michael O’Connell PhD

2006 Sayed-Hadi Mirmalek-Sani PhD

2006 Jodie Pound PhD

2007 Jon Dawson PhD

2008 Simon Tiley MD

2008 Ben Bolland MD

2009 Ahmed El Serafi PhD

2010 Catherine Forristal PhD

2010 Ayshe Ismail PhD

2011 Peter Mitchell PhD

2011 Alex Aarvold MD

2012 Andrew Jones MD

2012 James Smith MD

2014 Edward Tayton MD

2014 Stephanie Meakins PhD

2014 Siwei Li PhD


17 PhD and MD Students


Kelvin Cheung (Yr 3)

Marco Peca (Yr 3)

Yu Hin Man (Yr 3) co-supervisor

Emma McMorrow (Yr3)

Patrick Stumpf (Yr 3) co-supervisor

Joanna Greenhough (Yr3) co-supervisor

Tsiloon Li (Yr3) co-supervisor

Ines Moreno (Yr 1)

Eduardo Scarpa (Yr 1) co-supervisor

Daniel Page (Yr 1) co-supervisor

Umesh Jonnalagadda (yr 1) co-supervisor

Emma Budd (Yr 2)

Cameron Black (Yr 2)

Agnieszka Janeczek (Yr 2) co-supervisor


Emma William

Nicholas Evans

University of Southampton

Southampton Asset Management (to 2013)

Various University Enterprise/Research Groups

National and International responsibilities

Editorial Board Biomaterials

Editorial Board Tissue Engineering

Editorial Board European Cells and Materials

Editorial Board Regenerative Medicine

Editorial Board J. Tissue Engineering

Editorial Board J, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Fellow Institute of Biology

Research Council for Health of the Academy of Finland (to 2013)

Member of BBSRC Healthy Organism Panel (Deputy Chair) (2007 - 2012)

ARC Research Committee (2006 - 2010)

UK National Stem Cell Network Committee (2009 - 2012)

Adjunct Professor King Saud University (2009 - present)


Serve and have served as a consultant to various SME and Pharma Companies in the area of musculoskeletal science and Bone Regeneration


Book Section(s)



BM5 Year 4. Delivery of on-going lectures to groups of undergraduate students studying Orthopaedics and Rheumatology. Specific lectures given on metabolic bone disease and basic bone biology.

BM5 Year 1. Provides tutorial and lectures on calcium metabolism and physiology of bone

BM4 Year 1. Provides tutorial to year 1 BM4 students on Bone Physiology.

Integrated Stem Cell PhD Programme – Stem Cell PhD Course Director and  Lead - Also teach and run projects within the programme

Professor Richard Oreffo
Faculty of Medicine University of Southampton Institute of Developmental Sciences Building Mailpoint 887 Southampton General Hospital Tremona Road Southampton SO16 6YD Tel: +44 (0)23 8120 8502

Room Number: SGH/IDS/MP887

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