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(BBSRC DTP) Mapping organic and inorganic chemistry with ageing in bone tissue

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr M Buckley, Prof J Hoyland, Prof Phil Manning  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Bone plays vital roles in the body. Structurally, through supporting body movement and protection of internal organs, and chemically, acting as a reservoir of minerals, blood cell production and molecules for endocrine regulation. It is a biological composite of an inorganic phase (predominantly calcium phosphate) and organic phase, the latter is dominated by collagen molecules that are arranged into fibrils and fibres, within gaps of which the nucleation of mineral crystals occurs.
Recent advances in imaging technology, including those by members of this team using synchrotron-based elemental mapping, have started to improve our characterisation of the inorganic component of bone at resolutions not possible using conventional methods. However, these latest signals have yet to be linked with spatially mapping organic phase signals that drive bone growth and remodelling. For example, in addition to collagen, there are thousands of other proteins present, some of which play a role in directing the mineralization and growth of bone. The size, shape, and arrangement of the bone crystals influence the mechanical behaviour of bone, but these are affected by several factors involving bone remodelling and have consequences for crack initiation and propagation. Yet it is known that not only do a wide range of non-collagenous-proteins (NCPs) and other biomolecules influence this growth but age-related changes to collagen, such as advanced glycation end product and cross-linking formation, can also alter growth.
Traditional methods, such as immunohistochemistry, are targeted approaches, whereas advances in proteomic methods now allow for untargeted ways of investigating a much wider range of organic signals. We have begun to study the aging proteomes of bone (Procopio et al. 2017), identifying a suite of proteins that appear to correlate with skeletal aging, some of which clearly have direct functional relationships, e.g., fetuin-A with bone elongations, but there are many more organic signals of the cyclical remodelling process, whether growth factors being released as part of the activation phase, or enzymes as part of the resorption phase. Through the incorporation of imaging mass spectrometry in addition to shotgun proteomics, this project will seek to integrate complementary multiscale datasets that inform the structural properties and both inorganic as well as organic chemistry of bone throughout growth and remodelling by analysing entire cross-sectional rat limb samples. This will aim to promote a step-change in the understanding of how the inorganic and organic components of bone interact to provide bone with its material properties and structure, down to the cellular level in three-dimensions.

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

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

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.

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