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(MRC CASE) Development of Rapid Diagnostic Test for confirmatory and stratified diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease using Sebum Biomarkers

Department of Chemistry

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Prof P Barran , Dr Monty Silverdale , Dr D K Trivedi No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Manchester United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Biochemistry Bioinformatics Biophysics Immunology Medical Physics Neuroscience Medicine Physical Chemistry

About the Project

We have developed diagnostic test platforms for Parkinson’s disease (PD). A sebum sample collected non-invasively, transported in ambient conditions can be directly introduced to mass spectrometer and diagnostic results can be produced in ~5 minutes (rapid targeted) or 30 mins (discovery). For discovery work, we have shown that we can use thermal desorption coupled to mass spectrometry (TD-MS) to identify volatile odorous, diagnostic biomarkers, 1even from prodromal undiagnosed patients. For rapid targeted analysis we have developed paper spray mass spectrometry (PS-MS) for analysis wherein sebum collected non-invasively from the patient on a ‘q-tip’. This lipid-rich waxy sebum is, in the lab, transferred to a small piece of paper.2 The analytes present on this paper can be directly introduced for MS diagnosis. Using machine learning algorithms, we can distinguish chemical signatures measured by each method to separate PD from control with >85% accuracy.

This project will improve on these proof of concept studies by refining the sample introduction method, data analysis, and broadening the scope to consider if this method is able to stratify PD, to be used for prodromal detection (prior to motor symptoms) and to distinguish between other neurodegenerative diseases, (including multiple system atrophy). You will be responsible for combining patient meta data with mass spectrometry data, to tune our machine learning algorithms. Working with the industrial project partners Waters Corp. the student will develop a rapid diagnostic test for biomarkers from sebum with ion mobility mass spectrometry.

You will join the Michael Barber Centre for Collaborative Mass spectrometry where there are six mass spectrometry research groups, well supported by technical staff and working with a suite of state of the art mass spectrometers as well as the required data analysis tools.

Entry Requirements

Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Applicants interested in this project should make direct contact with the Primary Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible.

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the MRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) website

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website

Funding Notes

This is a CASE studentship in partnership with Waters. Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarship that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


1 D. K. Trivedi, E. Sinclair, Y. Xu, D. Sarkar, C. Walton-Doyle, C. Liscio, P. Banks, J. Milne, M. Silverdale, T. Kunath, R. Goodacre and P. Barran, ACS Cent. Sci., 2019, 5, 599–606.
2 D. Sarkar, D. Trivedi, E. Sinclair, S. H. Lim, C. Walton-Doyle, K. Jafri, J. Milne, M. Silverdale and P. Barran, , DOI:10.26434/CHEMRXIV.12517385.V1.

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