Metabolomics investigation of oral bacteria involved in chronic periodontitis to determine biomarkers indicative of systemic disease

   Faculty of Health and Life Science

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  Dr Howbeer Muhamad Ali, Prof Kathryn Whitehead  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Chronic Periodontitis (CP) is a chronic infection of the of the periodontium, which is mediated by a wide spectrum of oral microorganisms that predominant in the elderly. It has become apparent that periodontal disease is involved in the onset and progression of a number of systemic diseases. The bacteria and metabolites produced in CP have been associated with an increased risk and severity of arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerotic plaques, and Alzheimer’s Disease. However, it is unknown how the interactions of the bacterial species at different stages of CP influence the production of secondary metabolites, many of which are toxins.

This project is aimed at combining metabolomics technologies to offer insight into microbiological processes that underpin serious, key heath issues, thus enabling a systems level understanding of biomolecules in health and disease. In addition, the predictive value of such CP-specific biomarkers (bacterial metabolites) will be tested on a sub-set of whole saliva samples from patients with varying severity of periodontitis. Identification of biomarkers and metabolites of certain pathways linked to the infectious agents may provide clues on potential antimicrobial targets and lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies. 

This highly multidisciplinary project that bridges metabolomics with conventional microbiology will underpin the understanding of how microorganisms influence health and disease processes in mono and mix communities. The PhD student will receive training on a wide range of wet laboratory and analytical skills, including sophisticated analysis and interpretation of the complex data generated by metabolomics techniques and appropriate multivariate statistical techniques. Both laboratories involved in this collaborative project have researchers from a range of backgrounds, countries, and disciplines, hence alongside learning the research techniques and transferable skills, the student will engage with a range of students and postdoctoral scientists and will actively see how research is translated into industrial and clinical pathways.

For enquiries or to express your interest in this position, please contact: Dr Howbeer Muhamad Ali on: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The project is open to both European, UK and International students. It is UNFUNDED and applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application and the project.
The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of £4000 per year.
Details of costs can be found on the University website:
A £2000 ISMIB Travel and Training Support Grant may be available to new self-funded applicants.


NA. Hickey, KA. Whitehead, L. Shalamanova, JA. Butler, RL. Taylor (2019). A novel microbiological medium for the growth of periodontitis associated pathogens. J Microbiol Methods. 163, pp.105647-105647.
NA. Hickey, L. Shalamanova, KA. Whitehead, N. Dempsey-Hibbert, C. van der Gast, et al. (2020). Exploring the putative interactions between chronic kidney disease and chronic periodontitis. Crit Rev Microbiol. 46(1), pp.61-77.
Muhamadali, H., et al., Rapid, accurate, and comparative differentiation of clinically and industrially relevant microorganisms via multiple vibrational spectroscopic fingerprinting. Analyst, 2016. 141(17): p. 5127-5136.
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