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Advanced dental plaque biofilm modelling

  • Full or part time

    Dr Alistair Darby
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The oral cavity is highly populated with bacterial species, and around 700 oral bacterial species have been identified. Dental plaque is related to the aetiology of two of the most prevalent disease: caries and periodontal diseases. According to the ecological plaque hypothesis not only one or few bacterial species, but the disturbance of the symbiotic interactions between the host and the resident oral microbiota, as well as the microbial homeostasis are responsible for the occurrence of oral infections. Therefore, constant mechanical removal and improved oral hygiene are essential to prevent the occurrence of oral infections.

This PhD is a multidisciplinary project between the University of Liverpool (UoL), Department of Health Services Research (HSR), School of Dentistry, Centre of Genomic Research (CGR) and Unilever.
HSR and the School of Dentistry has expertise in the use of the model systems which combine the complexity of a physiologically relevant multispecies biofilm with a simulation of the abrasion and flow dynamics present in the mouth. This produces a specialised platform producing supragingival plaque with a composition that is representative of that occurring in the mouth.
This PhD project combines the world class expertise of HSR, the School of Dentistry and the Centre of Genomic Research (CGR/MIF-OMICS) for genomic analysis and sequencing. The centre has experience in characterising the human microbiome in a variety of contexts including the mouth, one of the most diverse microbiomes in the body, and advanced insights in its diversity and association to health and disease.
The student will also benefit from unique training opportunities at Unilever in the use and development of single and multi-species models, world leading expertise in oral microbiomics and unique experience in business relevant microbiome function and a unique opportunity to leverage genomic and bioinformatic capability and microbiological analytical and screening capabilities at offered by the MIFOMIC and MIF facilities located at the University of Liverpool.
The approaches proposed are state-of-the art and the academic and industrial infrastructure and support is exceptionally strong, which will ensure good career development opportunities for the student.

The aim of this project is to open a new area of research into the characterisation and development of more representative oral microbiome models. In the process we envisage the prospective student to get exposure and training in a rich diversity of techniques by utilising state of the art facilities.
The objectives are to :
1)establish a reliable laboratory model system comparing community composition of inoculum and biofilms over time to produce reproducible in vitro biofilms which are comparable to their in vivo counterparts. 2) Apply culture techniques, and next-generation sequencing such as microbiome 16S, metagenomics of DNA and RNA to gain functional insights into biofilm communities. 3) Compare in vitro and in vivo metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches, and optimise the model to reflect the outcome of different interventions in biofilm treatments. The work will be carried out in the research laboratories in the School of Dentistry and Centre of Genomic Research (CGR/MIF-OMICS) for genomic analysis and sequencing.

In addition to scientific training, the student will be exposed to the industrial process at Unilever giving them additional insight into Project Management, Corporate Strategy, Regulatory Approaches, Intellectually Property and Product Marketing. The student will cohort with the Liverpool-Newcastle-Durham BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) students and will access the full range of established training opportunities including workshops and conferences afforded by the DTP.

To apply, please send curriculum vitae, names and details of 2 academic referees and a covering letter to

Deadline for applications is Friday 31 May at 9am.

Funding Notes

The PhD candidate will benefit from a 4 year studentship that includes an enhanced BBSRC tax free stipend of £ 19,009/annum and UK/EU tuition fees


Valappil, S.P., et al., Effect of Gallium on Growth of Streptococcus mutans NCTC 10449 and Dental Tissues. Caries Research, 2014. 48(2): p. 137-146.
Rozenbaum, R.T., et al., A constant depth film fermenter to grow microbial biofilms. 2017.
Owens, G.J., et al., Evidence of an in vitro Coupled Diffusion Mechanism of Lesion Formation within Microcosm Dental Plaque. Caries Research, 2017. 51(3): p. 188-197.

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