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Fibrosis in diabetes: the role of insulin-like growth factor binding proteins

School of Health and Life Sciences

Dr C Wright , Dr S Patterson Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only
Glasgow United Kingdom Cell Biology

About the Project

REF SHLS20004 Wright

Treatment of chronic wounds costs around 1% of NHS budget and there is an imperative to develop new therapies. Fibrosis, the formation of excessive fibrous tissue, is a hallmark of diabetes and contributes to the failure of wound healing seen in diabetic skin, which can ultimately result in ulcer formation. In diabetes, fibrosis causes expansion of the extracellular matrix (ECM) – the scaffold of the skin. Advanced glycation products (metabolites of the high glucose levels in diabetes) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), a member of the insulin-like growth factor binding protein (IGFBP) superfamily, are involved in this process; CTGF interacts with transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) to increase undesirable fibroblast/myofibroblast transformation. We have previously shown that CTGF gene expression changes in dermal fibroblasts exposed to high glucose levels. IGFBP-5 is increased in the fibrotic disease systemic sclerosis where it may contribute to impaired wound healing. However, IGFBP-5 may serve as an antagonist to CTGF and TGF-β, since IGFBP-5 inhibits keratinocyte migration in wound models, and TGF-β actions.

This project will examine IGFBP superfamily members in diabetic fibrosis in skin, aiming to determine mechanisms by which they interact to alter ECM deposition and cellular function. Human dermal fibroblasts and keratinocytes from diabetic and normal donors will be sourced from the GCU Skin Research Tissue Bank. The outputs will contribute to our wound healing studies aimed identifying novel therapeutic targets to mitigate fibrosis in diabetes. The collaborations developed here between the PhD student, scientists, clinicians and Pharma companies that specialise in fibrosis and peptide research make the future development of novel therapeutics a real possibility. The student will benefit from an experienced supervisory team with backgrounds in Dermatology and Diabetes, and have the opportunity to attend focussed meetings such as the Scottish Skin Biology Club (

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying.

Apply here

Director of Studies Name: Dr Catherine Wright


GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor Name: Dr Steven Patterson


GCU Research Online URL:

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will be expected to have a Bachelor of Science honours degree in a relevant subject at 2:1 or above
In addition to annual research tuition fees, Research support ('Bench') fees will also be required for this project
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