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(BBSRC DTP) Understanding the contribution of dietary extracellular vesicles to healthy human development

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Manchester United Kingdom Biochemistry Bioinformatics Cell Biology Computational Chemistry Endocrinology Other Plant Biology Reproductive Biology

About the Project

The ability to adapt behaviour in response to nutrient availability is important for all cells but particularly so for trophoblasts, as these cells form the placenta - the interface between mother and fetus - and act as fetal sentinels of the maternal environment. Maternal diet undoubtedly influences placental function, and therefore fetal growth; fruit and vegetables are particularly beneficial. However little is known about the molecular mechanisms involved in trophoblast recognition of dietary-derived signals or how the information is translated into altered placental behaviour.

We have recent data to suggest a role for components of the extracellular vesicles (EVs) produced by plants and in this proposal we aim to conduct a systems-level analysis of the effect of fruit and vegetables on placental development/function and fetal growth to identify the pathways linking maternal diet and normal human development.

Specifically we will:

1. establish the effect of EVs from a selected range of fruit and vegetables on the function of in vitro models of human intestine (Caco-2cells) and ex vivo explants of human placenta;
2. perform a multi-level ‘omic analysis of the composition of EVs with beneficial effects and then use bioinformatic analyses to identify the ‘pro-placenta’ components;
3. administer the ‘pro-placenta’ molecules to rodent models to determine their effect on placental and fetal growth in vivo.

An inadequate maternal diet contributes to poor fetal growth and results in offspring with an increased risk of developing chronic diseases and a poorer quality of life in adulthood. Therefore uncovering these pathways is a key step in designing strategies, including dietary interventions, to protect the fetus from the adverse health trajectory initiated by exposure to suboptimal nutrition in early life.

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 View Website

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