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Professor Rachel Waddington

Professor Rachel Waddington

Associate Director Engagement & Enterprise, Professor of Oral Biochemistry

School of Dentistry

+44 (0)29 225 10647
412, University Dental Hospital, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XY
Available for postgraduate supervision


Rachel Waddington is a Professor in Oral Biochemistry.  With more than 30 years’ experience, her research has a particular focus for understanding the role of the extracellular matrix environment in the regulation the biology and differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells during bone and dentine repair; research that aims to be translational for provoking clinical benefit. 

The matrix plays an important role in regulating effective and efficient cell signalling.  Rachel’s recent research has investigated:

  • how the extracellular matrix environment is altered during systemic conditions such as chronic type 2 diabetes mellitus, leading to inefficient cell signalling that compromises the healing process and exacerbates periodontal tissue destruction;
  • tissue and cell derived matrix-based therapies that can potentially reverse the delayed bone healing often encountered with these systemic conditions;
  • the influence of modifying titanium implant surfaces on cellular activity that is beneficial for promoting bone healing and hence allows for quicker and more efficient integration of medical implants.



Rachel Waddington is a non-clinical Professor in Oral Biochemistry and has been in academia since appointment as lecturer in the School of Dentistry in 1988. Her research interests centre on the cell and matrix biology of bone and dentine repair, and applying this research to improved diagnosis, management and treatment in clinical dentistry and orthopaedic medicine. She has published 90+ peer-reviewed publications (h-index 28 (Scopus); 34 (Google Scholar), 2019), edited 1 academic book, over 200 conference abstracts and successfully received grant funding from UK research councils, Wellcome Trust, Welsh government, EU, charity and industrial sources. 

Rachel is currently Associate Director for Engagement and academic lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity activities within the School of Dentistry, Cardiff University.  She also currently sits on the management committee of the British Society for Oral and Dental Research as Chair of the Awards Committee, organising a portfolio of prizes for Early Career Researchers. 

Honours and awards

During her career Rachel has been awarded the Senior Colgate prize (1990) and the MINTIG Mineralised Tissue Research travel prize (1996), both awarded by the British Society for Dental and Oral Research. In 1993 was awarded Royal Society Overseas Study award for a research sabbatical University of Toronto, Canada.  

Honours and awards

Senior Colgate prize (1990) and the MINTIG Mineralised tissue Research travel prize (1996), both awarded by the British Society for Dental and Oral Research




























  • Undergraduate and postgraduate teaching - bone and dentine biology, tooth development and structure, periodontal connective tissues in health and disease, osseointegration, fluoride and mineralised tissues and caries development.
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy since 2001; Member of the Leadership foundation for Higher Education since 2008.
  • Lead for Oral Biology teaching and assessment School of Dentistry, Cardiff University.
  • Educational experience in academic course management; course development and validation; preparation of assessment criteria and content for both formative and summative assessments.
  • External examiner for higher degrees theses relating to research field;
  • Past and present external examiner for Basic Biomedical Science modules on Undergraduate BDS courses at University of Liverpool, UK, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK,  Queen's University Belfast, UK, University of Bristol, UK, University of Malaya, Malaysia; University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
  • Extensive mentoring experience for early stage researchers and academics, both within Cardiff University and other Welsh academic institutions. 
  • Proactive for development and training activities for academic staff career progression, including development for early career postdoctoral researchers. 

The clinical management of bone fractures and implant placement, including revision / replacement is orientated towards obtaining bone healing in the shortest time frame, with the best possible functional recovery, and with the least complications arising; features that remain a challenge for patients with osteoporosis or chronic diabetes.  Against this clinical challenge my research has developed a focussed interest towards understanding and exploiting the role of extracellular matrix proteins in directing bone and dentine repair.  Below is a summary of current research projects.

  • Alterations to extracellular matrix proteins associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Within this systemic conditions, the biological activity of mesenchymal stem cells is reported to be impaired leading to delayed bone healing.  Within this field of research we have been investigating how a hyperglycaemic environment can lead to changes in the levels of extracellular proteins decorin, biglycan, transforming growth factor ß and osteopontin - all of which have the potential to hinder the synthesis of a fully mineralised tissue.  Additional studies have investigated how bacterial virulence factors can exacerbate these changes with detrimental consequence for periodontal disease progression in these patients.

  • Cell and tissue derived matrix-based therapies for restoring signalling environment associated with delayed bone healing

The extracellular matrix is a rich source of growth factors, integrated into the extracellular matrix that regulates their activity.  Our research has investigated the potential of demineralized dentine matrix as a store of growth factors capable of promoting bone repair processes.


In addition, our research is currently investigating the potential of extracellular vesicles, secreted from dentally derived mesenchymal stem cells, and their role as carriers of a biologically active cargo capable of enhancing the differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells into bone synthesizing osteoblasts.


  • Influence of modified titanium surfaces on bone repair processes

Through detailed studies involving a series of standardised cell- and tissue-based assays, we have investigated how defined and subtle surface modifications to titanium implant biomaterials can influence osteoblast differentiation.  These studies additionally study cellular activity supporting angiogenesis and appropriate macrophage function, both of which are recognised as pre-requisites for successful bone healing. 


Rachel has successfully supervised more than 20 PhD doctoral and 15 masters research student projects.  Nearly 90% of PhD students have successfully progressed into research positions on graduating and six have been successful in establishing academic careers within University institutions worldwide.

Past projects

Recent awards

  • Amr Alraies (Awarded 2014) Characterisation of Clonal Dental Pulp Progenitors and the Effects of In vitro Expansion and Hydrogen Peroxide (Co supervisor).
  • Fraser Young (Awarded 2014)  Dental Pulp Progenitor-Derived Neuronal and Oligodendrrocyte-like Cells for Spinal Cord Repair (Co-Supervisor).
  • Jodie Harrington (Awarded 2014) Efficacy of clonal progenitor cells from dental pulp and bone marrow to regenerate craniofacial mineralised tissue structures (Primary Supervisor).
  • Andreas Heil (Awarded 2015) Development of a novel 3D human cartilage model system to investigate changes in cartilage associated with osteoarthritis.(Co Supervisor).
  • Norhayati Yusop (Awarded 2015) Altered Biological Responsiveness of Cells Regulating Intramembraneous Bone Repair Associated with Type 2 Diabetes.  (Primary Supervisor).
  • Abeer Al-Mouallad (Awarded 2016) Endogenous growth factor release for Maxilofacial Tissue Repair (Co supervisor)
  • Steven Avery (Awarded 20176) Assessment of the Bioactive Potential of Demineralised Dentine Matrix on Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells.  (Primary Supervisor).
  • Elen Everet (Awarded 2018) Novel Antimicrobial Restorative Materials for the Control of Dental Disease (Co supervisor)
  • Ahmed AlQarakhli (Awarded 2018) Altered Bone Cell Biology Associated With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus - Consequences for Periodontal Disease. (Primary Supervisor).