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John Forsythe

John Forsythe

Associate Professor, Materials Engineering
+61 3 990 59609
Room 226, 20 Research, Clayton Campus

BSc (Hons) Chemistry, 1994
PhD Polymer Chemistry, UQ, 1998

Research Interests

My research activities focus on the synthesis and modification of novel biopolymers for use in neural tissue engineering and cell culture. In summary my research can be categorised as follows:

  • Scaffolds for brain and spinal cord repair
  • Nano-fibrous electrospun scaffolds
  • Interaction of stem cells on biopolymer substrates
  • Electrospinning
  • Light responsive hydrogels
  • Bioprinting

Neural Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering initiatives have been directed at developing scaffolds that assist in the repair of damaged neural pathways. This research presents significant challenges as the scaffold must meet the following criteria:

  • Provide a suitable microenvironment for the neurons
  • Present appropriate physical and chemical cues (and in the correct order!) to direct neurites over significant distances
  • Both biodegradable and biocompatible.

Research has been directed at the interaction of neurons in 3-dimensional hydrogel systems as well as nano-fibrous electrospun assemblies. This has involved the immobilisation of proteins to promote directed neurite outgrowth as well as manipulation of spatial architectures of nano sized fibres (as shown below).

neural stem cells on a nanostructure

Neural stem cells cultured on a nanostructured biomaterial


  • C. Zhou, V.X. Truong, Y. Qu, T. Lithgow, G. Fu, J.S. Forsythe, “Antibacterial poly (ethylene glycol) hydrogels from combined epoxy‐amine and thiol‐ene click reaction”, Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry, 54(5) 656-667 (2016)
  • Y. Li, A. Nelson, C.D. Easton, D.R. Nisbet, J.S. Forsythe, B.W. Muir, “Probing the interfacial structure of bilayer plasma polymer films via neutron reflectometry”, Plasma Processes and Polymers, first published online: 15 Oct 2015, DOI: 10.1002/ppap.201500158.
  • V.X. Truong, K.M. Tsang, G.P. Simon, R.L. Boyd, R.A. Evans, H. Thissen, J.S. Forsythe, “Photodegradable Gelatin-Based Hydrogels Prepared by Bioorthogonal Click Chemistry for Cell Encapsulation and Release”, Biomacromolecules, 16(7), 2246-2253 (2015).
  • S.S. Nair, J. Forsythe, B. Winther-Jensen, “Directing the growth of ZnO nano structures on flexible substrates using low temperature aqueous synthesis”, RSC Advances, 5 (110), 90881-90887 (2015).
  • N.P. Reynolds, K.E. Styan, C.D. Easton, Y. Li, L. Waddington, C. Lara, J.S. Forsythe, R. Mezzenga, P.G. Hartley, B.W. Muir, Nanotopographic Surfaces with Defined Surface Chemistries from Amyloid Fibril Networks Can Control Cell Attachment, Biomacromolecules, 14(7) 2305-2316 (2013)
  • F. Ercole, H Thissen, K Tsang, R.A. Evans, J.S. Forsythe, Photodegradable hydrogels made via RAFT, Macromolecules, 45(20) 8387-8400 (2012)
  • Y. Shi, V.X. Truong, K. Kulkarni, Y. Qu, G.P. Simon, R.L. Boyd, T. Lithgow P. Perlmutter, J.S. Forsythe, “Light-triggered release of ciprofloxacin from an in situ forming click hydrogel for antibacterial wound dressings”, J. Mater. Chem. B, 3, 8771-8774 (2015)
  • S.S. Nair, B. Kolodziejczyk, K. West, T.S. Hansen, S.B. Adeloju, J.S. Forsythe, B. Winther-Jensen, “New junction materials by the direct growth of ZnO NWs on organic semiconductors”, RSC Advances, 5, 7932-7937 (2015).
  • A.E. Rodda,F.Ercole, D.R. Nisbet, J.S. Forsythe and L. Meagher, Optimization of Aqueous SI-ATRP Grafting of Poly(Oligo(Ethylene Glycol) Methacrylate) Brushes from Benzyl Chloride Macroinitiator Surfaces, Macromolecular Bioscience, 15, 799811 (2015).
  • K. Tsang, N. Annabi, F. Ercole, K. Zhou, D.J. Karst, F. Li, J.M. Haynes, R.A Evans, H. Thissen, A. Khademhosseini, J.S. Forsythe, Facile One‐Step Micropatterning Using Photodegradable Gelatin Hydrogels for Improved Cardiomyocyte Organization and Alignment, Advanced Functional Materials 25(6), 977-986 (2015)
  • C Zhou, S Qian, X Li, F Yao, J.S. Forsythe, G Fu, "Synthesis and characterization of well-defined PAAPEG multi-responsive hydrogels by ATRP and click chemistry", RSC Advances, 4(97), 54631-54640 (2014).
  • D. Fon, A. Al-Abboodi, P.P.Y. Chan, K. Zhou, P.J. Crack, D.I. Finkelstein, J.S. Forsythe,Effects of GDNF-loaded injectable gelatin-based hydrogels on endogenous neural progenitor cell migration Advanced Health Care Materials, 3(5), 761-774 (2014)
  • S. Marchesan, Y. Qu, L. Waddington, C.D. Easton, V. Glattauer, T. Lithgow, K.M. McLean, J.S. Forsythe, P. G. Hartley, Self-assembly of ciprofloxacin and a tripeptide into an antimicrobial nanostructured hydrogel for sustained release, Biomaterials, 34(14) 3678-87 (2013)
  • S. Marchesan, L. Waddington, C.D. Easton, F. Kushkaki, K. M. McLean, J.S. Forsythe, P.G. Hartley, Tripeptide Self-Assembled Hydrogels: Soft Nanomaterials for Biological Applications BioNanoScience, 3(1) 21-29 (2012)
  • S. Marchesan, C.D. Easton, K.E. Styan, L.J. Waddington, F. Kushkaki, L. Goodall, K.M. McLean, J.S. Forsythe, P.G. Hartley,Chirality effects at each amino acid position on tripeptide self-assembly into hydrogel biomaterials Nanoscale, 6(10) 5171-5180 (2014)
  • R. Ravichandran, J.R. Venugopal, S. Sundarrajan, S. Mukherjee, J. Forsythe, S. Ramakrishna, Click chemistry approach for fabricating PVA/gelatin nanofibers for the differentiation of ADSCs to keratinocytes Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine, 2428632871 (2013)
  • S. Marchesan, C.D. Easton, K.E. Styan, P. Leech, T.R. Gengenbach, J.S. Forsythe, P.G. Hartley, SU-8 photolithography on reactive plasma thin-films: coated microwells for peptide display, Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, 108 313-321 (2013)
  • T. Ameringer, F. Ercole, K.M. Tsang, B.R. Coad, X. Hou, A. Rodda, D.R. Nisbet, H. Thissen, R.A. Evans, L. Meagher, J.S. Forsythe, Surface grafting of electrospun fibers using ATRP and RAFT for the control of biointerfacial interactions, Biointerphases, 8, 16 (2013)
  • S. Marchesan, L. Waddington, C.D. Easton, D.A. Winkler, L. Goodall, J.S. Forsythe, P.G. Hartley, Unzipping the role of chirality in nanoscale self-assembly of tripeptide hydrogels Nanoscale, 4, 6752-6760 (2012)
  • K. Zhou, G. Thouas, C. Bernard, J.S. Forsythe, 3D presentation of a neurotrophic factor for the regulation of neural progenitor cells, Nanomedicine, 9(8) 1239-1251 (2014)
  • C. Lau, M. Kovacevic, T. Tingleff, J.S. Forsythe,H. Cate, D. Merlo, C. Cederfur, F. Maclean, C.L. Parish, M.K. Horne,D.R. Nisbet, P.M. Beart, 3D Electrospun scaffolds promote a cytotrophic phenotype of cultured primary astrocytes, J.Neurochem, 130(2) 215-226 (2014)
  • K. Zhou, G.A. Thouas, C.C. Bernard, D.R. Nisbet, D.I. Finkelstein, D Li, J.S. Forsythe, A method to impart electro- and bio-functionality to neural scaffolds using graphene-polyelectrolyte multilayers ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 4(9) 4524-4531 (2012)
  • D.J. Menzies, M. Jasieniak, H.J. Griesser, J.S. Forsythe, G. Johnson, G.A. McFarland, B.W. Muir, A ToF-SIMS and XPS study of protein adsorption and cell attachment across PEG-like plasma polymer films with lateral compositional gradients, Surface Science, 606, 1798-1807 (2012)
  • T.Y. Wang, J.S. Forsythe, D.R. Nisbet, C.L. Parish, Promoting engraftment of transplanted neural stem cells/progenitors using biofunctionalised electrospun scaffolds, Biomaterials, 33(36) 9188-9197 (2012).
  • Recent Journal Publications
  • S. Motamed, M. Del Borgo, K. Kulkarni, N. Habila, K. Zhou, P. Perlmutter, J.S. Forsythe, M.I. Aguilar, “A self-assembling β-peptide hydrogel for neural tissue engineering”, Soft Matter 12 2243-2246 (2016)
  • C.J. Rivet, K. Zhou, R.J. Gilbert, D.I. Finkelstein, J.S. Forsythe, “Cell infiltration into a 3D electrospun fiber and hydrogel hybrid scaffold implanted in the brain”, Biomatter, 5(1), e1005527 (2015).
  • T.Y. Wang, J.S. Forsythe, C.L. Parish, D.R. Nisbet, Biofunctionalisation of polymeric scaffolds for neural tissue engineering, Journal of Biomaterials Applications, 27(4), 369-390 (2012)
  • D.J. Menzies, A. Nelson, H.-H. Shen, K.M. McLean, J.S. Forsythe, T. Gengenbach, C. Fong, B.W. Muir, An X-ray and neutron reflectometry study of PEG-like plasma polymer films J. R. Soc. Interface 9(70) 1008-1019 (2012)
  • R.D.W. Kelly, A. Rodda, A. Dickinson, A. Mahmud, C. Nefzger, W. Lee, J. Forsythe, J. M. Polo, I.A. Trounce, M. McKenzie, D. Nisbet, J.C. St. John, Mitochondrial DNA haplotypes define gene expression patterns in pluripotent and differentiating embryonic stem cells, Stem Cells, 31(4) 703-716 (2012)
  • D. J. Menzies, T. Gengenbach , J. S. Forsythe , N. Birbilis , G. Johnson , C. Charles , G. McFarland , R. J. Williams, C. Fong , P. Leech , K. McLean and B.W. Muir, One step multifunctional micropatterning of surfaces using asymmetric glow discharge plasma polymerization, Chem. Commun., 48, 1907-1909 (2012)
  • K. Zhou, S. Motamed, G.A. Thouas, C.C. Bernard, D. Li, H.C. Parkington, H.A. Coleman, D.I. Finkelstein, J.S. Forsythe, “Graphene Functionalized Scaffolds Reduce the Inflammatory Response and Supports Endogenous Neuroblast Migration when Implanted in the Adult Brain”, PLoS ONE 11(3) e0151589 (2016).
  • V.X. Truong, K. Zhou, G.P. Simon, J.S. Forsythe, “Nitrile Oxide‐Norbornene Cycloaddition as a Bioorthogonal Crosslinking Reaction for the Preparation of Hydrogels” Macromolecular Rapid Communications, 36(19) 1729-1734 (2015).
  • D. Fon, K. Zhou, F. Ercole, F. Fehr, S. Marchesan, M.R. Minter, P.J. Crack, D.I. Finkelstein, J.S. Forsythe, Nanofibrous scaffolds releasing a small molecule BDNF-mimetic for the re-direction of endogenous neuroblast migration in the brain, Biomaterials, 35(9) 2692-2712 (2014)
  • F. Ercole, A.E. Rodda, L. Meagher, J.S. Forsythe, A.P. Dove, Surface grafted poly (ε-caprolactone) prepared using organocatalysed ring-opening polymerisation followed by SI-ATRP, Polymer Chemistry, 5(8) 2809-2815 (2014)
  • Y. Li, B.W. Muir, C.D. Easton, L. Thomsen, D.R. Nisbet, J.S. Forsythe, A study of the initial film growth of PEG-like plasma polymer films via XPS and NEXAFS, Applied Surface Science, 288 288-294 (2014)
  • J.L. Bourke, H.A. Coleman, V. Pham, J.S. Forsythe, H.C. Parkington, Neuronal Electrophysiological Function and Control of Neurite Outgrowth on Electrospun Polymer Nanofibers are Cell Type Dependent, Tissue Eng. A, 20(5-6) 1089-1095 (2013)
  • A.E. Rodda, L. Meagher, D.R. Nisbet, J.S. Forsythe, Specific control of cellmaterial interactions: Targeting cell receptors using ligand-functionalized polymer substrates Progress in Polymer Science, 39(7) 1312-1347 (2014)
  • B. Xu, Y. Li, C. Zhu, W.D. Cook, J. Forsythe, Q Chen, “Fabrication, mechanical properties and cytocompatibility of elastomeric nanofibrous mats of poly (glycerol sebacate)”, European Polymer Journal, 64, 79-92 (2015).

Research Interests:

  • light responsive hydrogels and bioprinting
  • neural stem cells
  • Neural tissue engineering
  • biointerfaces
  • Parkinson's disease
  • nano-fibrous electrospun scaffolds
  • spinal cord injuries