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(BBSRC DTP) Exploring the host-microbiome interactions to promote healthy skin function

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Prof A Nicolaou , Prof A McBain , Prof C A O'Neill No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Manchester United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Biochemistry Data Analysis Microbiology Other Other Pharmaceutical Chemistry Pharmacology

About the Project

The surface of our skin is an intriguing landscape covered by a diverse population of microorganisms that are collectively known as the cutaneous ‘microbiome’. These microorganisms, the microbiota, are sustained by nutrients that are produced by skin cells whist, at the same time they produce biomolecules that can influence the function of skin; in doing so microbiota affect the health of their host. The interaction between the host and its microbiome is highly dynamic, it is influenced by the host’s nutrition and plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin function across our lifespan.

This project will study the interactions that occur between skin cells and the cutaneous microbiome aiming to understand the role of nutritional factors that are implicated in maintaining a healthy state. We also plan to focus on examining the impact of this interaction upon the bioactive lipids that are produced by skin cells, as these biomolecules play a fundamental role in maintaining the correct structure and function of the skin barrier.

The experimental design will make use of 3D human skin models, primary skin cells in culture, human skin in organ culture and a clinical study. We will employ state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to analyse the biomolecules that are produced by skin cells and microbiota. We will then use advanced microbiology techniques and specialist assays to assess the bioactivities of selected compounds and key nutrients. All these tools and approaches will allow us to get detailed insights into the host-microbiome interaction.

The project will provide unique interdisciplinary training in biosciences integrating skin biology, lipid biology, microbiology and advanced analytics by mass spectrometry. The student will join a vibrant research environment at the Schools of Health Sciences and Biological Sciences, will work with a team of internationally recognised principle investigators, and will benefit from interacting with a wide network of academic and industrial collaborators. This studentship will provide unique multi-disciplinary training at the interface of chemistry-biology-microbiology, and will equip the student with a set of skills valuable for a career in modern academia and pharmaceutical industry.

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 Principal 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

Funding Notes

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 scholarships 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.

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


1. AC Kendall, SA Murphy, SM Pilkington, F Del Carratore, AL Sunarwidhi, M Kiezel-Tsugunova, P Urquhart, REB Watson, R Breitling, LE Rhodes, A Nicolaou. Dynamics of the skin mediator lipidome in response to dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation (2019) FASEB J. 33:13014-13027.

2. AC Kendall, MM Koszyczarek, EA Jones, PJ Hart, M Towers, CEM Griffiths, M Morris, A Nicolaou. Lipidomics for translational skin research: a primer for the uninitiated (2018) Exp Dermatol. 27:721-728.

3. H Williams, L Campbell, RA Crompton, G Singh, AJ McBain, SM Cruickshank, MJ Hardman (2018) Microbial host interactions and impaired wound healing in mice and humans: defining a role for BD14 and NOD2. J Invest Dermatol. 138:2264-2274.

4. C El-Chami, IS Haslam, MC Steward, CA O'Neill (2018) Organic osmolytes preserve the function of the developing tight junction in ultraviolet B-irradiated rat epidermal keratinocytes (2018) Sci Rep. 8:5167.

5. AJ McBain, CA O’Neill, A Amezquita , LI Price, K Faust, N Tett, N Segata, JR Swann, AM Smith, B Murphy, M Hoptroff, G James, Y Reddy, A Dasgupta, T Rossi, IL Chapple , WG Wade, J Fernandez-Piquer (2019) Consumer Safety Considerations of Skin and Oral Microbiome Perturbation. Clin Microbiol Rev. 32(4):e00051-19.
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