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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Determining how mRNA turnover and translation contributes towards age-associated joint diseases

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Tew
    Dr J Aspden
    Prof G Bou-Gharios
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

As our population ages it there is a significant increase in the incidence of chronic musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis. These diseases come at a significant cost at both individual and societal level and yet for many there are no disease modifying drugs available. This studentship will investigate how new therapeutic targets can be identified by examining how processes that influence joint tissue function are controlled at the post-transcriptional level. The successful candidate will determine how rates of mRNA turnover and protein translation affect genes that are known to control the integrity of the articular cartilage within the joint. The project will use a variety of in vitro and in vivo approaches, including cutting edge CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing strategies for the development of novel transgenic mouse strains. Overall, this PhD will provide training in a broad array of the molecular techniques necessary for studying both what happens to mRNAs after they are transcribed and how that contributes to biological function.

You will receive supervision from a team of academics who each bring key expertise that will support the project. Dr Simon Tew’s laboratory (University of Liverpool) has a long-standing interest in the role of post-transcriptional gene regulation in orthopaedic tissues. Professor George Bou-Gharios (University of Liverpool) is an expert on chronic diseases that affect extracellular matrices, with particular focus on the use of transgenic mouse models. Dr Julie Aspden (University of Leeds) heads a group focussed on understanding the molecular processes that control mRNA translation. In addition to training in a broad range of molecular laboratory techniques, the studentship will provide access to a diverse range of additional training opportunities aimed at supporting progression of the PhD and developing transferable skills.

The Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment, we emphasize the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

Candidates should hold or be expected to obtain a First or Upper Second class Honours degree or a Master’s degree in a relevant Biological subject. If English is not your first language you must have IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, with no component below 5.5.

Useful links:

Simon Tew’s University webpage:
Simon Tew’s lab webpage:

George Bou-Gharios’s University webpage:
George Bou-Gharios’s lab webpage:

Julie Aspden’s University webpage:
Julie Aspden’s lab webpage:

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:
This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.
We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.
Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:
Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs
Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
Tuition fees
Research training and support grant (RTSG)
Travel allowance
Studentships commence: 1st October 2019.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here:
Good luck!


Mueller AJ, Canty-Laird EG, Clegg PD & Tew SR (2017) “Cross-species gene modules emerge from a systems biology approach to osteoarthritis” npj Systems Biology and Applications 3:13

McDermott BT, Ellis S, Bou-Gharios G, Clegg PD & Tew SR (2016) “RNA binding proteins regulate anabolic and catabolic gene expression in chondrocytes” Osteoarthritis Cartilage 24:1263—73

Tew SR, McDermott BT, Fentem RB, Peffers MJ, Clegg PD. (2014) “Transcriptome-wide analysis of mRNA decay in normal and osteoarthritic human articular chondrocytes.” Arthritis Rheumatol 66:3052-61

How good is research at University of Liverpool in Clinical Medicine?
(joint submission with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 143.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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