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Developing culture models of the degenerate IVD niche to test Notochordal cell therapies


Project Description

A 3.5 year full-time PhD scholarship is offered by Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Funding is available for: UK Students & EU Students
The scholarship covers home/EU tuition fees plus a generous stipend equivalent to the full UK Research Innovation rate.
Funding amount: A generous and comprehensive package is offered. This includes a stipend of £14,777 per annum (2018/19) plus Home/EU tuition fees (£4,260 in 2018/9).

Low back pain (LBP) is a leading cause of disability and morbidity worldwide. It is widely accepted that a major contributor to LBP is intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD). IDD account for at least 40% (~280 million) of all LBP cases, leading to an EU-economic burden of ~€240 billion. These patients receive conservative treatment (e.g. pain relief medication and physiotherapy). When the latter is unsatisfactory, the only option left are invasive and costly surgical intervention. To date, no treatments halt or reverse IDD. Despite the profound socioeconomic burden and impact of IDD, decreasing the quality of life of millions of people, a game-changing treatment strategy for IDD induced LBP is almost non-existent. The iPSpine consortium was formed to initiate a European-led research effort to identify a future advanced therapeutic strategy that results into a radical new treatment of IDD-induced LBP. With their multi-disciplinary expertise in the development of advanced therapies and their translation from bench to bedside, the aim of the iPSpine team is to investigate and develop a new advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) of the future, based on a novel developmental biology-based therapeutic strategy employing pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and smart biomaterials. The iPSpine consortium will develop and demonstrate Proof-of-concept with the aid of novel and extended knowledge, tools and technology platforms. Hereby, iPSpine has the ambition to make a significant contribution by reducing translational bottlenecks through open innovation and take European leadership in the development of ATMPs. The iPSpine impact: iPSpine seeks to offer novel technologies and ATMPs for the advanced therapy research and development community. IDD will be the showcase, offering improved quality of life for millions of patients with IDD-induced LBP, through long-lasting reduction of LBP, reduced LBP-related premature retirement, and improved socio-economic contribution. This PhD program will form part of the iPSpine consortium and will focus on the development of in vitro culture system to mimic the environment of the degenerate IVD to investigate the efficacy in vitro of iPSC to inhibit the catabolic environment of the IVD.

Entry requirements
Successful applicants will possess all of the attributes listed below.
• A first class or upper second class honours degree in a biological sciences subject or a related discipline or a Merit of distinction in a suitable MSc. Experience working in a research laboratory is desirable.
• Excellent communication skills in English (speaking and writing).
• Ability to work independently and within a team
• Highly motivated with a commitment to conduct high quality research
• Excellent time management skills
• Experience in cell and tissue culture is desirable.
• Experience in paraffin sectioning, histology and immunohistochemistry is desirable.

Funding Notes

Candidates should apply to SHU via the University application form, including a 1500 word research proposal (section 9) demonstrating your background reading on the topic of the PhD and your plans for how you would undertake this programme.

Please include a cover letter describing why you are interested in pursuing postgraduate studies and how you meet the selection criteria.

An application form can be downloaded at the following URL:

View Website

For project enquiries contact .

Key Dates:
•Interviews will be held during early April 2019
•The studentship will begin in May 2019 or in exceptional circumstances October 2019.

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