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Developing a novel mass spectrometry assay to measure circulating kisspeptin levels


Department of Metabolism, Digestion & Reproduction

, Sunday, February 28, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Miscarriage is the commonest complication of pregnancy, affecting one in five pregnancies. Diagnosis is challenging, and women are often left with uncertainty following assessment.
Currently, no reliable biomarker exists that accurately stratifies the risk of miscarriage.
Kisspeptin has emerged as a novel marker of pregnancy complications. Kisspeptin plays an important role in many facets of reproduction, including puberty, ovulation and placentation. Kisspeptin and its receptor are highly expressed in the placenta throughout pregnancy in humans. Circulating kisspeptin levels reach ~7000-fold those of non-pregnant levels, and rapidly fall post-partum. Our research suggests that kisspeptin has strong potential as a biomarker for miscarriage. A decision tree model using kisspeptin had 83-87% accuracy for the prediction of miscarriage.
Currently, kisspeptin is measured using an in-house radioimmunoassay. Whilst commercial ELISA’s exist, these have poor performance, especially at lower levels. In order to realise the potential of measuring circulating kisspeptin levels, we propose to develop a mass spectrometry assay for kisspeptin.
The aim of PhD studentship would be to produce a sensitive and specific kisspeptin assay that can identify different isoforms. The student will be trained and supported in the development of this assay by Dr Matt Lewis (lead of the Phenome Centre at Imperial College London). Once developed, we shall test and validate the assay using clinical samples and determine the performance and clinical utility of the assay in collaboration with the early pregnancy assessment unit (EPAU) at Hammersmith Hospital. An enthusiastic student with an interest in improving reproductive health and in clinical chemistry would be ideal for this project. Students will be encouraged to be involved in the design / conduct of experiments, and to publish / present their work at scientific conferences. They will also complete a series of courses from the award-winning Imperial College Graduate School. Students will receive training in clinical chemistry techniques, assay development, mass spectrometry, statistical methods, scientific thinking, writing and presentation.Successful applicants will be joining an internationally-renowned research group, within one of the world’s top research universities. The Section has an excellent publication record in top rated research journals and is well funded from a number of different sources, including grants by the Wellcome Trust, the MRC and the BBSRC. The student will be based on the Hammersmith campus: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/visit/campuses/hammersmith/
Professor Dhillo is NIHR Research Professor, an experienced PhD supervisor and has successfully supervised more than thirty PhD students to completion. He is head of the Section of Investigative Medicine and Endocrinology and has published widely on neuropeptides and reproduction. He will be supported in supervising the PhD student by Dr Ali Abbara (NIHR Clinician Scientist) and Dr Matt Lewis (Phenome Centre). Applicants must have a first or upper second class degree from a UK University or the overseas equivalent in a relevant area of biochemistry, biology, physiology, or neuroscience. A Master’s degree is desirable but not essential. Candidates should have the ability to exercise initiative and to work independently or as part of a team, flexibility, good organisational and communication skills, intellectual rigour, the ability to prioritise a varied workload and to meet deadlines while maintaining a high level of accuracy. Full training will be given in all applicable techniques but experience clinical chemistry would be desirable. Applicants must also meet Imperial College’s English language requirements – further details described at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/registry/admissions/pgenglish
This studentship opportunity is open to home/EU only. In order to be eligible for a Studentship award, students must satisfy the usual eligibility criteria, including adequate academic qualifications and UK residence.





Funding Notes

The applicant will be supported to apply for funding from the College’s MRC doctoral training programme View Website and Presidents’ scholarships View Website . Studentships are available until the deadline date, but applicants will be eligible for more studentships the earlier they apply, and so are encouraged to contact the supervisor as soon as possible to discuss opportunities.

Home/EU tuition fees for 3 years plus a stipend of £18,000 per annum



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