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A Molecular Biomarker Study for Primary Sjogren's Syndrome

   Institute of Dentistry

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  Dr M T Teh, Dr A Tappuni  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

London United Kingdom Dentistry Molecular Biology

About the Project

Primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS) with a female preponderance is a systemic autoimmune disorder with secretory gland dysfunction characterised by dryness of the main mucosal surfaces including the mouth, eyes, nose and vagina1. The disease is one of the top 3most common autoimmune disorders2. It is established that pSS patients are at higher risk of developing cancers3, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). It has been reported that female patients, but not in male patients, with pSS had a higher risk of NHL, multiple myeloma and thyroid gland cancer4. However, the molecular mechanism associated with increased risk of malignancy remains unclear. Understanding the molecular pathways leading to malignancy may lead to identification of molecular biomarkers which could be translated into clinical diagnostic tools for identification of high risk pSS patients.

The PhD project aims to investigate the molecular pathways associated with pSS and identify key candidate genes associated with cancer risk in pSS patients.

Research training facilities and environment:
The project will involve interdisciplinary approaches involving bioinformatics meta-analysis of published transcriptome data for biomarkers discovery, cell and molecular techniques for mechanistic studies and handing of clinical tissue specimens (salivary gland, oral mucosa tissues, etc.) for clinical chemistry analysis involving nucleic acid purifications and quantitative PCR.

Queen Mary University of London is a highly-ranked research university and a member of the UK’s Russell Group of leading universities. The PhD student will be exposed to clinical environment at our new Institute of Dentistry and perform his/her research in a £45 million state-of-the-art laboratory, the Blizard Institute, which hosts eight multidisciplinary research centres. This, together with core facilities at Charterhouse Square and Mile End campuses brings together important cell and molecular research facilities such as electron microscopy, nanoparticle analysis, proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics, FACS, confocal imaging, RT-PCR, expression microarray and molecular research reagents, which will greatly facilitate the experiments proposed in this PhD studentship proposal. The open plan environment encourages interactions between students and staff from different centres. In addition, the Institute hosts weekly seminars given by both national and international speakers on current biological research relevant to the institute.

Person specification:
A graduate with at least an upper second class honours degree or a distinction in an experimental MSc degree is required for this PhD project. The candidate should have strong interests and preferably with some experience in molecular pathology, clinical chemistry and bioinformatics.

How to apply:
For more information regarding the project, please contact Dr Muy-Teck Teh ([Email Address Removed])

Applications should be submitted through the Queen Mary application system. Please indicate the project title and supervisor in the ‘Research Degree Programmes - Additional Questions’ section of the application.

Alongside the application form, please send the following supporting documents:
• Curriculum Vitae (CV)
• Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts
• Proof of English language ability for overseas applicants from non-English speaking countries
• A one-side A4 statement of purpose. This should set out your previous academic or other experience relevant to the proposed research; why you wish to undertake this research at QMUL; your previous research or professional training and what further training you think you will need to complete a PhD; and what ethical issues you will need to consider in undertaking this research.
• Two references. At least one reference must be from an academic referee who is in a position to comment on the standard of your academic work and suitability for postgraduate level study. Where appropriate, a second referee can provide comment on your professional experience.

Please contact Charlotte Royle ([Email Address Removed]) with any queries about the application process.

Funding Notes

We will consider applications from prospective students with a source of funding to cover tuition fees and bench fees for three years full-time or 6 years part-time. Both self-funded and sponsored students will be considered.

UK nationality self-funded students might be eligible for both the cost of tuition fees and a yearly stipend over the course of the PhD programme from the Student Finance England:


1 Ramos-Casals, M., Brito-Zeron, P., Siso-Almirall, A. & Bosch, X. Primary Sjogren syndrome. BMJ 344, e3821, doi:10.1136/bmj.e3821 (2012).
2 Fox, R. I. Sjogren's syndrome. Lancet 366, 321-331, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)66990-5 (2005).
3 Liang, Y., Yang, Z., Qin, B. & Zhong, R. Primary Sjogren's syndrome and malignancy risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 73, 1151-1156, doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203305 (2014).
4 Weng, M. Y., Huang, Y. T., Liu, M. F. & Lu, T. H. Incidence of cancer in a nationwide population cohort of 7852 patients with primary Sjogren's syndrome in Taiwan. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 71, 524-527, doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200402 (2012).
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