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(BBSRC DTP CASE) Shifting the paradigm for determining the Coeliac toxicity of cereal-based foods using aptamers for coeliac toxic motifs and IgE-epitopes

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

Wheat and related cereal species (barley, rye and oats) are a staple food across the world. Unfortunately they can also trigger the non-IgE immune-mediated food intolerance known as Coeliac disease (CD) which affects ~1% of the global population and the IgE-mediated food allergy known as wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis (WDEIA). These conditions are triggered by protein fragments which evade gastrointestinal digestion interacting with the immune system. There is no cure for CD or WDEIA and patients have to practice avoidance of gluten or wheat-containing foods. Digestive aids are also being developed so that individuals with wheat allergies and intolerance no longer need to worry about accidentally consuming the residual gluten but their effectiveness is not well understood. Currently we lack effective methods to determine the level of CD toxic motifs and WDEIA IgE epitopes, relying instead on antibody-based methods to whole gluten proteins which often provide false negative and positive test results and are unable to fully quantify either CD toxic motifs or WDEIA IgE epitopes. Another type of reagent, based on nucleic acids, called aptamers, have great potential to provide molecular probes which would address these short comings. The proposed project would set out to develop a suite of aptamer-based molecular probes for coeliac toxic motifs and IgE epitopes in cereals to facilitate (1) molecular breeding and selection of oat lines which have reduced coeliac toxicity; (2) assuring purity of oats where comingling with wheat/rye/barley is an issue; and (3) assessing the efficacy of digestive aids in reducing the toxicity of gluten. The multidisciplinary supervisory team spanning biological and chemical sciences is based in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology with outstanding facilities and a lively community of researchers committed to transdisciplinary research. Placements are available to work at the CASE partner, Iceni Diagnostics (Norwich, UK) and to work alongside researchers in the University of Helsinki identifying oat cultivars of low coeliac toxicity and at Waters Corporation (Wilmslow) to compare aptamer and mass spectrometry based methods of analysis.

Entry Requirements:
Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

UK applicants interested in this project should make direct contact with the Primary Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. International applicants (including EU nationals) must ensure they meet the academic eligibility criteria (including English Language) as outlined before contacting potential supervisors to express an interest in their project. Eligibility can be checked via the University Country Specific information page (

If your country is not listed you must contact the Doctoral Academy Admissions Team providing a detailed CV (to include academic qualifications – stating degree classification(s) and dates awarded) and relevant transcripts.

Following the review of your qualifications and with support from potential supervisor(s), you will be informed whether you can submit a formal online application.

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website

Funding Notes

This is a CASE studentship in partnership with Iceni Diagnostics. Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

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