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Cathepsin Z as a novel potential biomarker for osteoporosis

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr. Dong Barraclough, Professor Lakshminarayan Ranganath and Professor Sobhan Vinjamuri

Osteoporosis is one of most prevalent chronic ageing-related bone diseases in the world, often going undetected until the first fragility fracture occurs, causing patient suffering and cost to health and social care services. Osteoporosis arises from imbalanced activity of osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Since these cell lineages produce the protease, cathepsin Z, the aim of this study is to investigate whether cathepsin Z mRNA levels are associated with osteoporosis in large clinical samples.

Our pilot study has shown that cathepsin Z mRNA in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells was statistically significantly raised in osteopenia and osteoporosis patients and in post-menopausal osteoporosis compared to non-osteoporotic controls. Importantly, cathepsin Z mRNA was significantly raised in patients with fragility fracture in osteoporosis. Our research group has shown that cathepsin Z mRNA could be a future diagnostic biomarker for osteoporosis including post-menopausal osteoporosis. A further large clinical trial study is necessary to assess the diagnostic value of cathepsin Z in osteoporosis.

The project will provide an excellent opportunity for a PhD student to pursue a career in the clinical science research area, to be trained to work closely with medical professionals to learn clinical research skills combined with basic science research skills. The project will involve the analysis of clinical samples using advanced molecular biology tools, including RT-qPCR and ELISA assay to investigate cathepsin Z as a potential diagnostic biomarker for osteoporosis.

The Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment we emphasize the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

Any specific eligibility requirements:
2(i) or better in a B.Sc. (Hons) degree in a relevant subject or equivalent. Candidates whose first language is not English should have an IELTS score of at least 6.5.

Enquiries to: Dr. Dong Liu Barraclough
To apply please send your CV and a covering letter to
with a copy to

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees, bench fees of £15,000 per year and all living expenses. Details of the cost of study can be found on the University website. There is NO funding attached to this project.


Mandourah, A.Y., Ranganath, L., Barraclough, R., Vinjamuri, S., Van’T Hof, R., Hamill, S., Czanner, G., Dera , A., Wang, D., and Barraclough, D.L. (2018). Circulating microRNAs as potential diagnostic biomarkers for osteoporosis. Scientific Reports (2018) 8. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-26525-y
Dera A., Ranganath, L., Barraclough, R., Vinjamuri, S., Hamill, S. and Barraclough, D.L. (2019). Cathepsin Z as a novel potential biomarker for osteoporosis. Scientific Reports (submitted)

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