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Professor Richard O C Oreffo DPhil DSc (Oxon) FHEA CBiol FRSB FIOR

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

Professor Richard O C Oreffo's photo
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Richard Oreffo holds the chair of Musculoskeletal Science and is co-founder and Director of the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration. He has held positions in USA, AstraZeneca, and University of Oxford before being appointed to a lectureship in 1999 at the University of Southampton. Richard 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.

Richard completed his DPhil at the MRC Bone Research laboratory in Oxford on skeletal cell biology and his post-doctoral training in San Antonio, Texas, USA under Professor Greg Mundy on bone remodelling. For over 20 years, he has lead a multidisciplinary research group focused on developing strategies to repair bone & cartilage with translation through to patient benefit a personal key driver. In 2001 Richard was recognised with the Maxime Hanns award for collaborative research in Bone Tissue Engineering, appointed to a Senior Lectureship in 2002 and to a Readership and Personal chair in 2004. Richard has successfully trained over 45 PhD and MD students since 2002 and, as of May 2020, directly supervises/co-supervises 11 MD/PhD Graduate Fellows.

Richard manages a significant research grant portfolio, has published over 300 peer-reviewed full papers (H-index 67; >16,350 citations ISI WoS), including breakthrough publications on skeletal stem cells and nanotopography, bone regeneration as well as epigenetics in Osteoarthritis, in Nature Materials, ACS Nano, Stem Cells, Arthritis & Rheumatism; holds 7 patents and is co-editor of “Epigenetic aspects of Chronic Diseases” Highly Commended in 2012 BMA Medical Book Awards.

He serves / has served on a number of Research Council Committees, Industrial committees and international advisory boards and holds a number of visiting professorships in Australia and Asia. His research led to the first 3D titanium bone stem impaction graft operation in the UK. He is founder / CSO of Renovos Biologics Limited; a spin-out from the University of Southampton. Richard is on the editorial boards of five journals, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, in 2015 was awarded a DSc by the University of Oxford and elected a Fellow of International Orthopaedic Research in 2019.


Appointments held

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:

  • 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,
  • The role of epigenetics, maternal nutrition and intrauterine programming in skeletal development of related offspring
  • Manipulation of the developmental potential of bone stem cells on modified biomimetic structures with select growth factors,
  • Epidemiological Studies in Bone & Joint Research
  • Modelling of skeletal tissue formation – including gene network analysis as well as tissue growth modelling.
  • 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


Human Development and Health

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.

University of Southampton
  • Southampton Asset Management (to 2013)
  • Various University Enterprise/Research Groups
  • Member of Hearings and Appeals Panel University of Southampton
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)
Recent Professional and Editorial Board Membership
  • UKRI-BBSRC Bioscience Integrated Understanding of Health Strategy Advisory Panel (2020-Present)
  • BBSRC Regenerative Biology and Stem Cell Working Group (2018-Present)
  • Tissue Eng. and Regen Med. International Society (TERMIS) EU Council Member (2016-Present)
  • International External Review Committee (ERC) to the MIT Portugal Program - Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) (2014-Present)
  • Int. Strategic Advisory Board 3D Global Biotech, Taiwan and Orthosera, Austria (2015-Present)
  • International Advisory Board (Biomedical Sciences) Chinese University Hong Kong (2012-Present)
  • Editorial Board Materials Today BIO (2018-Present)
  • Editorial Board Biomaterials, Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine (2011-Present)
  • Editorial Board Journal of Tissue Engineering (Assoc. Editor) (2009-Present)
    Editorial Board European Cells and Materials (2006-2018)
    Editorial Board Regenerative Medicine (2006-Present)

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

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Book Chapters




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

Richard has successfully trained >45 MD/PhD students to completion since Oct 1999 and currently has 13 PhD/MD fellows in his group as PI/co-I.

Richard was lead PI of the  MRC Capacity Building Studentship award for an integrated 4 year PhD programme in Stem Cells for 2 x 4 PhD students from 2009-13. The Stem Cell Pathway (Oreffo Director) offered focussed training in basic stem cell science together with development of platform technologies using interdisciplinary strategies to enable the selection and lineage modulation of embryonic, fetal and adult stem cells to ultimately provide sufficient characterised populations for tissue regeneration to address the unmet clinical needs in an ageing population.

I am a mentor for ECRs on the University of Southampton (Faculty of Medicine and University wide) mentor programmes, European Calcified Tissue Society mentor programme and American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Society mentor programme.

Details of recent higher degree students supervised to completion –All PhD students, since 1999, have completed within four years and majority in three years.


 Student (Funding) - Destination where knownDegree and Title of ThesisStart DateCompletion Date

Rahul S Tare  (ORC) - Lecturer UoS

PhD - The diverse roles of Osteoblast stimulating factor-1during post-natal bone development Oct 1999 Sept 2002

Xuebin Yang (BBSRC) - A Prof Leeds University

PhD - Bone Tissue Engineering: Biomimetic structures for human osteoprogenitor growth Oct 1999 Nov 2002

Daniel Howard (BBSRC) - Biotech Industry

PhD – The immuno-selection of adult mesenchymal stem cells for bone and cartilage tissue engineering

Oct 2000 Dec 2003

Michael O’Connell (ARC) - Academia USA

PhD - Factors Influencing Osteogenic Differentiation in Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Oct 2003 Sept 2006

Sayed-Hadi Mirmalek-Sani (BBSRC) - Cell Therapy Catapult

PhD - Characterisation of Human Foetal Femur-Derived Cells and Their Potential for Bone Tissue Engineering Oct 2003 Dec 2006

Jodie Pound (RiA) - Teaching

PhD - Strategies for Cartilage Regeneration: Use of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Alginate microcapsules and bioreactor technology Oct 2003 Dec 2006

Jon Dawson (BBSRC) - EPSRC Advanced Fellow UoS

PhD - Strategies for skeletal tissue engineering – expansion of multipotential mesenchymal populations and use of conductive scaffolds for skeletal tissue formation

Oct 2004

Oct 2007

Simon Tilley (SUHT Trust) - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon- Southampton

MD – Seeding of Human Bone Marrow Stromal Cells onto bone graft substitutes and allograft – an impaction grafting model April 2005 May 2008

Ben Bolland (SUHT Trust) - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon- Taunton

MD – Mechanical and biological augmentation of allograft and synthetic graft in impaction bone grafting April 2006 May 2008

Ahmed El Serafi (Egyptian Govn Scholarship) - Academia UAE

PhD - The effects of epigenetic modifiers on osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation of skeletal stem cells April 2006 April 2006

Catherine Forristal (Kerkut Charitable Trust) - Post Doc Australia

PhD - Hypoxic Regulation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells Oct 2006 June 2010

Ayshe Ismai (Kerkut Charitable Trust) - Publishing

PhD - Interactions between human embryonic stem cell and foetal femur derived cell populations – development of strategies for tissue regeneration Sept 2006 Oct 2010

Peter Mitchell (EPSRC/ifLS) - Industry

PhD - Skeletal stem cell isolation and differentiation: Interdisciplinary strategies for skeletal tissue engineering Sept 2007 Sept 2011

Andrew Jones - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MD – Use of enriched skeletal populations in skeletal regenerative medicine Sept 2007 Sept 2012

Alex Aarvold - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon- Southampton

MD – Bone tissue engineering: Experimental strategies and clinical application April 2009 Oct 2011

James Smith - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MD – Bone Tissue Engineering Jan 2010 June 2012
17 Edward Tayton (MRC) - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Reading PhD – Tissue Engineering Strategies for Bone Regeneration Feb 2010 Jan 2014

Marco Peca - Pharma

PhD (Co-Supervisor) – High throughput skeletal stem cell separation using magnetic labelling and microfluidic sorting Oct 2010 Sept 2014

Siwei Li - Post-doctoral fellow Imperial

PhD (Co-Supervisor) – Cartilage tissue engineering – a multidisciplinary approach Oct 2010 Dec 2014

Tsiloon Li - Clinical Trials Management

PhD (Main Supervisor) - Understanding Skeletal Development Across the Life Course Oct 2011 July 2015

Nicholas Evans - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Southampton

MD (Main Supervisor) - Tissue engineering strategies in spinal arthrodesis: The development of new models with the potential to promote fusion Oct 2011 Aug 2015

Patrick Stumpf - Postdoctoral Fellow UoS

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Investigating the Origins and Consequences of Cell-to-Cell Variability in Stem Cell Populations Oct 2012 Oct 2015

Joanna Greenhough - Pharma

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Insight into the physiology of skeletal development – role of BCL-2-associated athanogene-1 (BAG-1) Oct 2011 July 2015

Agnieszka Janeczek - Biotech Business Development

PhD  (Co-Supervisor) - Wnt protein delivery for skeletal stem cells for bone regeneration Oct 2012 Nov 2015

Nunzia Sposito - Biotechnology, Product Manager

PhD (Main Supervisor) – Mass spectrometry-based proteomics for the characterisation of skeletal cell populations Oct 2011 Nov 2015

Kelvin Cheung - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Hong Kong University

PhD (Main Supervisor) – Examination of microRNAs in Skeletal Stem Cell Differentiation Oct 2010 Dec 2015

Emma Williams - Consultant Rheumatologist

PhD ( Main Supervisor) – Part time: Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis – the effects of inflammatory cytokine son bioengineering strategies to repair arthritic joints Oct 2011 Sept 2018

Emma Budd - Postdoctoral fellow University of Sussex

PhD (Main Supervisor) - MicroRNAs in Osteoarthritis and Chondrogenesis

Sept 2012 May 2016

David Gibbs - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and lecturer, Southampton

PhD (Main Supervisor) The use of synthetic clay to enhance fracture healing and bone regeneration Sept 2012 May 2016

Vitali Goriainov - Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Portsmouth

MD – (Main Supervisor) Bone and Metal Interface Sept 2012 Aug 2016

Umesh Jonnalagadda - Postdoctoral Fellow University of Singapore

PhD: Investigation of the Biophysical of Acoustic Environment for Cartilage Tissue Engineering 2013 2016

Cameron Black - Veterinary Surgeon Fitzpatrick Referrals

PhD – (Main Supervisor) - The use of translational models to assess potential novel strategies in bone tissue engineering Sept 2013 June 2016

Ines Moreno - Postdoctoral Fellow, QUT Australia

PhD (Main Supervisor) - Development of bone regeneration approaches using ex vivo strategies Sept 2013 Nov 2016

Shona Waddell - Biotech Industry, Sales, Cambridge

PhD – The role of nanotopography, microRNA and epigenetics in stem cell fate, function and bon regeneration 2014 Dec 2018

Tim Noble - Scientist - Biotech

PhD (Main Supervisor) - Harnessing the potential of Aptamer biomarker discovery protocols for human skeletal stem cells identification, isolation and classification Sept 2014 Nov 2018
36 Daniel Tang PhD (Main Supervisor) - Development of an integrated synthetic printed bone graft cell scaffold complex for skeletal regeneration Sept 2014 Dec 2018

Miguel Xavier - International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Portugal

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - LAPASO Sept 2014 May 2018

Catarina Moura - Academia, University of Minho, Portugal

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Multimodal label-free imaging for stem cell plasticity and skeletal regeneration Sept 2014 May 2018

Patricia Goggin - In progress

PhD Part Time (Co-Supervisor) - Correlative light, X-ray, and electron microscopy framework for 3D bone imaging at the cell level across the lifecourse Oct 2014 2020

Katherine Williams - PDRA UoS

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Katherine A. Williams, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton: “Visualising avian bone development: Implications for the palaeobiology of birds” Oct 2015 Jan 2019

Alice Goring - In progress

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Alice Goring, Centre for Biological Sciences, University of Southampton: “Elucidating the role of vascular endothelial growth factor in regulating adult bone health, strength and repair” Oct 2015 2019

Gianluca Cidonio - EPSRC Postdoctoral fellow UoS

PhD (Main Supervisor) - Novel 3D scaffolds for cartilage and bone formation and cell 3D printing Oct 2015 Oct 2018

Alia Hafiz - In progress

PhD (Main Supervisor) - Characterisation of induced mesenchymal stem cells derived from aged and fetal populations‐ implications for disease physiology and regenerative medicine Oct 2015 2019

Susanne Renz - In progress

PhD (Main Supervisor) - induced bone stem cells from normal, aged and diseased populations Oct 2015 2019

Jo McEwan - In progress

MD (Main Supervisor) (Part-time) - Skeletal Stem Cell Tissue Engineering Oct 2016 2019

Michael Glinka - In progress

PhD (Main Supervisor) - Harnessing 3D printed smart materials for targeted stem cell fate and function in skeletal Oct 2016 2019

Howard Tribe - In progress

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Application of STRO-4-immunoreactive human skeletal stem cells for cartilage regeneration Oct 2016 2019

Rebecca Holding - In progress

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Adipose derived stem cells: potential stem cell therapy for bone tissue regeneration Oct 2016 2019

Mohamed Mousa - In progress

PhD (Co-Supervisor ) - Tailoring clay nanoparticles for generating injectable osteogenic stem cell microenvironments Jan 2016  

Akita Sharma - In progress

PhD (Co-Supervisor) - Utilising osteogenic signatures to predict postoperative bone cell behaviour on copper implants Oct 2017  

Elloise Matthews - In progress

PhD Main Supervisor - Identifying the skeletal stem cell for regeneration- harnessing single cell RNA sequencing and 3D biofabrication Oct 2018  

Beni Mackay - In progress

PhD (Co-supervisor) - Harnessing topography and laser strategies to control stem cell fate Oct 2018  

Julia Wells - In progress

PhD (Main Supervisor)(Part time) - Development of natural vascular networks for skeletal repair – Bone in a sleeve Jan 2019  
54 Karen Marshall PhD (Main Supervisor) - Development of bone regeneration strategies at scale using innovative material strategies Oct 2019  
Professor Richard O C 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

Telephone:(023) 8120 8502
Facsimile:(023) 8120 5255

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