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3D Grown Fat Tissue to Find New Treatments for Diabetes

Institute of Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology

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Dr Brian Hudson No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Glasgow United Kingdom Bioengineering Biotechnology Cell Biology Molecular Biology Pharmacology Tissue Engineering

About the Project

This project is one of 19 four year PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland ( to be delivered jointly by the named University and External Partner Organisation (EPO). The Studentship will provide the first-class academic and additional training provided by the EPO needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"Enhancing Drug Discovery for Type 2 Diabetes with 3D hydrogel cultured adipose" to be delivered by the University of Glasgow [Supervisors: Dr Brian Hudson, Professor Matthew Dalby and Dr Catherine Berry (all Instiute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology, University of Glasgow)] and BiogelX Ltd ( [External Partner Organisation supervisor: Dr Chris Allan].

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a growing worldwide health problem characterized by high levels of blood sugar. This condition is caused primarily by a reduced response to the insulin hor¬mone, however, most drugs used to treat T2D do not improve response to insulin. Instead, current T2D drugs lower blood sugar in other ways. There is therefore a need to discover new drugs able to restore normal insulin function in T2D.

In this project you will focus on developing new technologies to improve drug discovery for T2D. Specifically, you will work to establish 3D cultured models of both healthy and T2D fat tissue that can be used to identify new drugs that restore insulin function. Through placements with our industrial partner, BioGelx, you will learn about the chemistry, production, and implementation of synthetic hydrogels, as tools to establish highly reproducible 3D cultured models of fat tissue. Then, to make these models suitable for drug discovery, you will use molecular biology approaches to incorporate genetically encoded biosensor into the models as a way to measure insulin function with the 3D fat models in real time.

After establishing the hydrogel 3D models, you will use the models to explore potential drug targets for T2D. Specifically, you will examine how a G protein coupled receptor (GPCR), known as FFA4, influences insulin response. FFA4 is a GPCR activated by fatty acids that has received significant attention for its potential to restore insulin response. This is partly because we know that certain healthy fatty acids, for example the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, appear to improve insulin response. Therefore, the 3D fat models that you will develop through this project will provide the tools needed to clearly define how FFA4 improves insulin function, and critically, how this could be exploited for the treatment of T2D.

Overall, this project will provide you with a world class training environment, combining leading expertise from two major research centres at the University of Glasgow: the Centre for Translational Pharmacology (Dr Brian Hudson) and the Centre for the Cellular Microenvironment (Prof Matthew Dalby and Dr Catherine Berry), with industrial expertise from Biogelx (Dr Chris Allan). This will not only offer a cutting edge research project, but also provide you with key skills in molecular and cellular biology, pharmacology, drug discovery, and bioengineering that will be invaluable to a career in either academic or industrial research.


Enquiries should be sent by email to Dr Brian Hudson:

[Email Address Removed]


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline. Applications are welcome from UK nationals as well as EU nationals that hold UK settled or pre-settled status.

Applications must be submitted online by logging in to the online application system at

When submitting your online application, please provide a CV, the contact details of 2 or 3 referees (including email addresses), your academic transcripts and a covering letter, describing your previous research experience and explaining your reasons for applying for this particular project.

Please note, your application may be shared with the funders of this PhD Studentship, Medical Research Scotland and BiogelX Ltd.

Interviews are expected to take place 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications. In light of the current coronavirus situation, interviews may be conducted by video conference/conference call.

It is anticipated that the PhD Studentship will start 1 October 2021.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £18,500, increasing to £19,000 over the four years; tuition fees at home rates only; consumables; and generous travel allowance. International fees are not covered.


Univeristy of Glasgow pages for the academic supervisors:
Brian Hudson:
Matthew Dalby:
Catherine Berry:
Univeristy of Glasgow Centre for the Cellular Microenvironment:

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