Dr James Henstock

BSc, MPhil, PhD, FHEA, Dr

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Externally-funded, company-sponsored and self-funded projects available in Tissue Engineering and 3D cell culture systems

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Personal profile


James is Associate Professor of Tissue Engineering in the Department of Applied Science. His research covers 3D cell culture technologies, and is centred on designing new bioreactor-based strategies for biomanufacturing musculoskeletal tissues on earth and in space.

Following a BSc in Molecular Biology at UEA, an MPhil in Developmental Biochemistry at Birmingham University and a PhD in Biomaterials at Nottingham University, James joined Keele University as a postdoctoral researcher to research the mechanobiology of tissue engineered bone as a living therapeutic graft material. Using techniques including targeted magnetic nanoparticles and custom-designed bioreactors, his research focused on delivering mechanical forces to bone growing in the laboratory to stimulate the natural growth response.

After a visiting postdoctoral fellowship investigating bioengineered cartilage at Columbia University in New York, James set up his own laboratory at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease in 2015 to research musculoskeletal diseases and ageing using cells and tissues cultured and grown in the laboratory, and using bioreactors designed to mimic the biomechanical conditions of the human body. A highlight of his work in Liverpool was Project: MicroAge, a UK Space Agency-funded project which launched tissue engineered human muscles in micro-bioreactors to the International Space Station to investigate the similarities between age-related muscle weakening on earth and the diminished effect of exercise on astronaut muscles in space.

In 2021 James joined Vow Ltd in Sydney, Australia to turn his research in muscle bioengineering into cultivated meat, a novel food which combines bioprocessing technology and tissue engineering to create nutritious animal protein without harming animals. James returned to the UK in 2023 to resume his academic research, and was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellowship at Northumbria to work at the intersection of Bioengineering, Space, Medicine and Sustainable Manufacturing.

James is a member of the BioCulture Facility Definition Team for the European Space Agency which is designing the technological capabilities for the next generation of bioscience research in space, and is a member of the University’s cross-faculty Space and BioFutures Interdisciplinary Research Themes. He is generally interested in biomanufacturing in space, particularly in the potential to use synthetic biology to manufacture the materials which will enable crewed exploration of the solar system (including construction materials, food and medicine) when fossil fuels and farmed animals are not available.

In addition to his enthusiasm for sustainability, James is committed to increasing fairness in academia and providing support for people to reach their full potential. He is very happy to talk to students about careers in science. He is LGBTQ+ Voice for the University’s Research Culture Committee, and the review committee for the revised Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers in 2019. He works closely with UKRI, including panel memberships for EPSRC Healthcare Technologies, BBSRC, and the Interdisciplinary College (Cross-Council Responsive Mode funding scheme), and serves on the BBSRC People and Talent Strategy Advisory Panel.

Research interests

James research interests cover cell and tissue engineering, and centre on the design of active culture environments (bioreactors) for proliferating, maturing and cultivating in vitro musculoskeletal tissues. His expertise covers biomaterials, bioreactors and bioprocess technologies, disease models, biofabrication and 3D printing. He is an experienced engineer, and uses computer-aided design technology and additive manufacturing to create functioning prototypes and working bioreactors. The applications of James’ work are in healthcare technologies, regenerative medicine, disease modelling and cellular agriculture / cultivated meat. He is very happy to discuss potential research projects with prospective research students, and external partners in both academia and industry.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

Education/Academic qualification

Biomedical Science, Porous silicon - polycaprolactone composites for orthopaedic tissue engineering , University of Nottingham

Award Date: 10 Dec 2009

Molecular Biology, N-deacetylase/N-sulfotransferase enzymes in the post-translational modification of heperan sulfate glycosaminoglycans, University of Birmingham

Award Date: 12 Dec 2003

Molecular Biology, BSc (Hons), Molecular Biology & Genetics : The role of iron availabilty on the symbiotic nitrogen-fixing relationship between Mezorhizobium loti and Lotus japonicus, University of East Anglia

Award Date: 12 Jul 2001

External positions

European Space Agency

1 Jan 2024 → …

University of Liverpool

1 Oct 2021 → …

External Examiner, Newcastle University

31 Mar 2001 → …

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion keywords

  • LGBT+ Equality


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