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Identification of genetic and protein modifications linked with neuropathic and inflammatory pain

Project Description

Even with healthy ageing, pain is an increasingly prevalent symptom, with a large impact on quality of life. Therefore the effective prediction, prevention and treatment of chronic pain will be a significant step towards lifelong health. Understanding the biological mechanisms by which we feel pain is vital to creating new analgesic medicines that are both effective and non-addictive. In this PhD project a deeper understanding of the genetic, molecular and human aspects of pain sensation will be developed using cutting edge technology both at Eli Lilly & Co in Surrey and the University of Sheffield.

This study will use human neuromas and tooth pulps available at the University of Sheffield to identify modifications of cellular and extracellular components, including extracellular vesicles, that are linked with the development of neuropathic and inflammatory pain. The project will extend our previous work that has utilised these tissues to identify proteins and miRNAs whose expression is explicitly linked with the presence and intensity of pain in man. The study will initially focus on investigating expression of a range of molecules predicted to be downstream targets of the neuropathic pain-associated miRNAs we have recently identified. Examples include interleukin receptors, ion channels, transmembrane transporters and resolvin receptors. Further analysis of patient tissues (including neuromas, tooth pulps, blood and saliva) will be carried out to establish molecular pathways relevant to chronic pain via investigation of coding and non-coding RNA, proteins, DNA and extracellular vesicles.

The studentship will be part of the wider GERAS Collaborative Training Partnership, a BBSRC-funded Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP) established with Eli Lilly and Company Ltd. Between 2017 and 2023, the CTP will deliver 11 four-year studentships in priority areas of Bioscience for health, World class underpinning bioscience, and Exploiting new ways of working. The research area of GERAS is focused on the biological basis of lifespan and healthy ageing, particularly ageing and the brain. The primary objective is the data-driven generation of new knowledge on the development and maintenance of health across the life course with the long-term objective of promoting health in later life. The training focus of the CTP is on the skills needed to understand complex biological systems from a data perspective, with core training in Bioinformatics, Programming and Coding, Statistics, and Data Science alongside professional skills training. The CTP will provide PhD students with a first-rate, challenging research training experience within the context of mutually beneficial research collaborations.

Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Professor Fiona Boissonade ().

How to apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select School of Clinical Dentistry as the department.

Funding Notes

Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and an enhanced stipend of at least £18,777 [2018 amounts, tax-free] for 4 years for UK/EU students subject to eligibility criteria).

Studentship Criteria - This BBSRC award is available to UK/EU applicants, only. EU students are only eligible for a full studentship if they have lived, worked or studied within the UK for three years prior to the funding commencing. More information can be found on the BBSRC website here: View Website.

Entry requirements
Applicants should have (or be expected to obtain) a 2:1 or 1st class honours degree in a relevant scientific discipline.

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