Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London and A*STAR PhD Studentship: Interactions between skin microbes and keratinocytes in individuals of Bangladeshi and Singapore-Chinese ethnicity with severe atopic eczema
Atopic eczema (AE) is a common itchy skin disease affecting 20% of children. The strongest inherited risk factor for AE is mutations in the filaggrin (FLG) gene, an important component of the skin barrier. Asian ethnic groups have enrichment in variation in FLG associated with skin infections. This project will explore the interactions between skin bacteria and the skin cells (keratinocytes) in individuals with severe AE.
In the first year of the project at QMUL, the student will culture keratinocytes from patients with severe AE (compound heterozygote FLG mutations) of Bangladeshi origin. The student will generate immortalised cell lines using telomerase for further use. The student will also learn how to generate and characterise 3D models taking advantage of a new state-of-the-art 3D bioprinting facility within the Blizard Institute.
In the second and third year of the studentship in Singapore, the student will be able to use these models to compare keratinocytes from Bangladeshi and Singapore-Chinese patients with AE in 3D models. The models will be exposed to different Staphylococcus aureus strains and detailed proteome analysis will be performed. In parallel, the surface proteome from skin tape strippings from patients prone to Staphylococcus aureus infection can be analysed to look at the biological response in vivo to infection. Salient findings can be confirmed by Western blotting with keratinocyte extracts or immunostaining on patient skin. Findings can also be correlated with genotype which will be available from ongoing studies in London and Singapore.
The student will gain expertise in keratinocyte culture, generation of 3D models, microscopy, Western blotting, immunostaining, proteomics and genotype analysis.
Applicants must hold a 1st class or 2:1 degree in a subject within the biological/life sciences. A Masters degree with laboratory experience would be an advantage. Applicants should have a good knowledge of English and the ability to express themselves clearly orally and in writing. The successful candidate must be strongly motivated for doctoral studies, must have demonstrated the ability to work independently and to perform critical analysis.
Applicants should also have:
• A strong background in biology. Good knowledge of cell biology techniques, such as cell culture and immunostaining.
• Interest in translational medicine.
• Interest in cross-disciplinary science.
A*STAR Research Attachment Programme (ARAP): This PhD programme is a collaboration between A*STAR and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) to provide research opportunities for PhD students at A*STAR Research Institutes. Under this programme, PhD students from overseas universities will spend two years at A*STAR Research Institutes under the joint supervision of staff of the A*STAR Research Institutes and QMUL.
The primary supervisor is Professor Edel O’Toole: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/blizard/all-staff/profiles/edel-otoole.html
The co-supervisor in Singapore is Dr John Common: https://www.a-star.edu.sg/imb/Research/tid/26/Skin-Barrier
Interviews are expected to take place in April
Starting date: September 2019 (dates can be flexible)