An immune-instructive synthetic mucus for inflammatory bowel disease immunotherapy

   School of Medicine

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  Prof A Ghaemmaghami, Prof A Mata, Dr G Moran  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammatory condition underpinned by aberrant immune responses to gastrointestinal (GI) mucosal surfaces leading to ulceration, pain, diarrhoea, growth retardation, and predisposition to colon cancer. Current treatments of IBD are symptomatic, can have serious side effects, and are invasive, and consequently there is a real need for safer and more efficient treatments. IBD affects millions of patients worldwide, including 500,000 people in the UK1 with 20% of patients developing symptoms during childhood.

In a healthy state, the intestinal epithelium is covered by the mucus, a thin protective mucin-rich gel- like layer that coordinates immune cells, commensal bacteria, and microbiota and is regulated by immune tolerant cells. In IBD, this tight balance is massively dysregulated, leading to the epithelial barrier becoming leaky and chronic inflammation including a cytokine storm, immune cell recruitment, and tissue damage. In this pro-inflammatory milieu, the natural microbiota undergoes an alteration of composition, which further contributes to the progression of IBD. 

In this PhD project we plan to use self-assembling immunomodulatory peptides to develop a synthetic mucus that can be used to promote local pro-healing and anti-inflammatory immune responses on the GI mucosal surface without the use of drugs. We envisions that this new immune- instructive synthetic mucus can be co-assembled with and integrated to the patient’s own natural mucus to modulate inflammatory responses in IBD. The project builds on supervisors’ experience in co-assembling peptide amphiphiles (PAs) with proteins and biofluids to design biomaterials (Mata), immune-instructive materials for immune-modulation (Ghaemmaghami) and clinical management of IBD (Moran). 

The project will provide multi-disciplinary training in cell biology/immunology, biomaterials, hydrogels, tissue models and fundamental aspects of inflammatory diseases.

The student will be able to work within well-funded and vibrant groups with support of several PDRAs. They will interreact with a variety of fundamental, translational and industry-led projects, as well as interacting with partners in the Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre ( including clinicians with opportunity of spending periods of time in our collaborators’ laboratories. 

The student will be registered within the School of Medicine and will have access to facilities in Schools of Life Sciences and Pharmacy.  

Funding notes

The three-year studentship covers tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.


Prof Amir Ghaemmaghami (Professor of Immunology & Immuno-bioengineering, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham)

Prof Alvaro Mata (Professor of Regenerative Medicine and Cellular Therapies, School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham)

Prof Gordon Moran (Professor of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham)

Informal inquiries can be made to [Email Address Removed]

Application details: To apply for this PhD opportunity please submit the following documents to [Email Address Removed]

  • Cover Letter outlining your research interests and motivation to pursue this project.
  • Curriculum Vitae detailing your academic background, research experience and relevant skills.

Entry requirements:

At least a 2.1 Honours degree in Biological Sciences, Immunology, Chemistry Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering or any related field.

Due to the funding requirements, this studentship is only available to domestic students.

Start date: February 2024

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Funded by NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Gastrointestinal and Liver Theme and The University of Nottingham School of Pharmacy

Where will I study?

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