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(BBSRC DTP) NMR and MS analysis of the sebum metabolome

   Department of Chemistry

  , ,  Friday, December 09, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Sebum, a waxy lipid-rich biofluid, is produced from the sebaceous gland and is traditionally connected with skin conditions such as acne2, psoriasis3 and seborrhoea4. However, its potential as a diagnostic matrix could go well beyond skin-related ailments. We have recently shown that sebum has a critical diagnostic role in other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, tuberculosis5 and COVID-196. 

As sebum is readily available, it is close to an ideal candidate for use in non-invasive diagnostics. Only the basic makeup of sebum is known, and a thorough investigation of the metabolome is overdue. This metabolome contains both metabolites produced endogenously from the sebaceous glands and those created by the skin microbiota, often called the exposome. A better understanding of host sebum and skin microbiota symbiosis is critical for understanding sebum’s role in health and disease. This project will use tandem mass spectrometry approaches together with high-resolution NMR to analyse sebum. The MS methods have unparalleled sensitivity, while NMR has the advantage of being directly quantitative and is the method of choice for metabolite identification, providing detailed structural information. Sebum samples will be analysed to obtain a vastly improved understanding of its composition and the variation of that composition. With this information, improved diagnostic methods for several diseases should be possible and tested in a metabolomics approach focused on Parkinson’s disease. 


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science, engineering or technology. 

Before you Apply

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.

How To Apply

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

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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

Studentship funding is for 4 years. This scheme is open to both the UK and international applicants. We are only able to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


1. Morgan, J. Joy of super smeller: sebum clues for PD diagnostics. Lancet Neurology 15, 138-139 (2016).
2. Xu, H. & Li, H. Acne, the Skin Microbiome, and Antibiotic Treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol 20, 335–344 (2019).
3. Zander, N. et al. Epidemiology of seborrheic dermatitis. Brit J Dermatol 181, e92–e92 (2019).
4. Mastrolonardo, M., Diaferio, A. & Logroscino, G. Seborrheic dermatitis, increased sebum excretion, and Parkinson’s disease: a survey of (im)possible links. Medical Hypotheses 60, 907–911 (2003).
5. Sinclair, E. et al. Metabolomics of sebum reveals lipid dysregulation in Parkinson’s disease. Nat Commun 12, 1592 (2021).
6. Spick, M. et al. Changes to the sebum lipidome upon COVID-19 infection observed via rapid sampling from the skin. Eclinicalmedicine 33, 100786 (2021).

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