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Impact of dietary components on the intestinal stem cell homeostasis and cancer risk


   Cardiff School of Biosciences

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  Dr L Parry  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Bowel cancer is the 4th most common and second biggest cause of cancer mortality. Of the ~14,000 new cases of bowel cancer each year in the UK it is estimated 50% could have been prevented through healthy lifestyle changes. For example, there is strong evidence for a high fibre diet preventing bowel cancer. Fibre provides food for the bacteria which live in the bowel; in turn the bacteria convert fibre into substances called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that nourish bowel cells and prevent them becoming cancerous [1]. To improve our understanding of bowel cancer prevention, we focus on understanding how the diet, microbiome, epigenome, immunity, and environment impacts on the intestinal stem cell (ISC), the cell of origin of CRC [2]. The link between dietary fibre and bowel cancer prevention has been partly attributed to the microbial conversion of fibre to the SCFA butyrate[3]. Butyrate is generally considered to be tumour suppressive but discrepancies in research results suggest it may be either an oncometabolite or a tumour-suppressive metabolite[4]. Potentially this is linked to the ability of butyrate at high levels to act as an epigenetic modifier. Further we have demonstrated in models that the epigenetic modifier Mbd2 can determine whether environmental interactions within the intestine are anti- or pro-tumourigenic[5]. Previous data identified by our team on the role of butyrate and MBD2 potentially explains the confusion over whether these agents are suppressive or oncogenic but has been established using mouse models. The PhD candidate will make use of an established clinical collaboration to determine the impact of butyrate and Mbd2 regulation on normal and pre-malignant human intestinal tissue. Translation of their roles on human stem cell biology, chromatin modifications and gene expression will be performed on tissue grown as 3D organoids ex vivo. The project will be primarily based at the European Cancer Stem Cell Institute at Cardiff University in collaboration with the Schools of Biosciences and Medicine.

Candidate requirements

A 1st or Upper 2nd class UK honours degree or equivalent. Please visit School of Biosciences Postgraduate Research for more details.

For those whose first language is not English, IELTS with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or equivalent. Please see our English Language Requirements guidance for more details.

How to Apply 

To submit a formal application via Cardiff University’s online application service, click the 'Institution Website' button on this advert; in the ‘Apply’ box at the top-right of the page, select Qualification (Doctor of Philosophy), Mode of Study (Full Time) and Start Date (this can be flexible as it is a self-funded project). This will take you to the application portal.

Candidates must submit the following:

 • Supporting statement

 • CV

 • Qualification certificates

 • Proof of English language (if applicable) 

In the research proposal section of the application, specify the project title and supervisors of the project. In the funding section, specify that you will be self-funding. If you are applying for more than one Cardiff University project with the same entry intake, please note this in the research proposal section as the form only allows you to enter one title.


Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, so students will need to source their own (tuition, bench fees if applicable, living fees if applicable).

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