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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Gene therapy for Osteogenesis imperfecta

   MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership

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  Dr Ivana Barbaric, Dr M Balasubramanian  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is a group of rare heritable connective tissue disorders, affecting 1 in 15,000 live births. 85-90% of OI cases are due to pathogenic variants in genes encoding Collagen I (COL1A1/A2). The fragility and deformation of bones are the most prominent features of OI, resulting in reduced mobility and impeding the life quality in OI patients. Current therapeutic approaches for OI are focused on managing symptoms rather than treating the underlying genetic aetiology. Whilst present treatments such as antiresorptive medication, orthopaedic surgery and physiotherapy can help alleviate some symptoms, there is no definitive cure. Gene therapy has been proposed as a promising approach for treating OI, but proof-of-concept studies are required to show the feasibility of this strategy. In our previous work, we have established a panel of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from OI patients with COL1A1 mutations. iPSCs can be differentiated to specialised cell types, including bone cells that are most affected by the disease and used to test potential therapies. In this project, we will build upon this valuable human iPSC bioresource to develop and test a gene therapy approach for OI. The techniques that will be used in the project include genetic engineering of cells (e.g. using CRISPR/Cas9), differentiation of iPSCs and in-depth biochemical and phenotypic assaying of cells.

Lab website: https://www.thebarbariclab.com/

University website: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/biosciences/people/academic-staff/ivana-barbaric

Twitter: @IvanaBarbaric3

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, York 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: https://www.dimen.org.uk/blog

Further information on the programme and how to apply can be found on our website:


Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 4yrs. Funding will cover tuition fees, stipend and project costs. We also aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of full studentships to international applicants. Please read additional guidance here: https://www.dimen.org.uk/eligibility-criteria
Studentships commence: 1st October 2023
Good luck!


1. Balasubramanian M. Clinical and Molecular Heterogeneity of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. In D. Kumar (Series Editor), Colloquium Series on Genomic and Molecular Medicine. Vol. 8. San Rafael, CA/United States: Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences Publishers.
2. Thornley et al (2021) Non-collagen pathogenic variants resulting in the osteogenesis imperfecta phenotype in children: a single-country observational cohort study. Arch Dis Child. DOI: 10.1136/archdischild-2021-322911
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