Meet over 65 universities on 27 & 28 April GET YOUR FREE TICKET >
University of Portsmouth Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

(MRC DTP) Circadian rhythms in the ageing spine: implications in intervertebral disc degeneration and stem-cell based regeneration

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
Dr Q-J Meng , Prof J Hoyland No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Low back pain is amongst the most prevalent spinal diseases, causing severe pain and loss of mobility. Progressive degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD) tissue is a major cause, with ageing as a major risk factor. Stem cell-based therapies provide hope for tissue regeneration of the IVD and restoration of function. The Hoyland and Meng labs have r shown, for the first time, an autonomous circadian (24 hourly) rhythm in mouse IVD tissue explants and human IVD cells (Dudek et al., Annals Rheum Dis 2016). We have generated a conditional BMAL1 (a core clock factor) knockout mouse model that selectively disrupts circadian rhythm in the IVD, and a BMAL1-Venus knock-in mouse model using CRISPR-CAS technique (Yang et al., PLoS Gen 2020). These exciting novel discoveries and animal models place us in a unique position internationally and provide an unprecedented new opportunity to further our understanding of the pathogenesis of IVD degeneration and low back pain. We therefore hypothesize that disruption to the circadian clock (for example, during ageing) may be a critical risk factor in human disc degeneration. Consequently, enhancing circadian rhythms may slow down tissue degeneration and promote stem-cell based regenerative therapies.

In this PhD project, we will utilize state of the art “-omics” techniques (RNAseq deep sequencing), bio-informatics, high-end imaging, biochemistry and monitoring of clock gene activities, to elucidate roles of circadian rhythm in human disc degeneration and cell-based therapy for treatment of disc degeneration. This project will provide fresh new insights into the function of a core circadian clock factor BMAL1 in IVD physiology and pathogenesis and establish a mechanistic link between ageing and IVD circadian rhythm disruption. More importantly, the project will directly demonstrate the relevance of circadian clocks in human degenerative discs and mesenchymal stem-cell differentiation protocols being currently developed for cell based regenerative strategies for the treatment of disc degeneration and low back pain.

Links to Supervisors:

As an example of recent media coverage for this novel area of research, please follow these links,

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

UK applicants interested in this project should make direct contact with the Primary Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. International applicants (including EU nationals) must ensure they meet the academic eligibility criteria (including English Language) as outlined before contacting potential supervisors to express an interest in their project. Eligibility can be checked via the University Country Specific information page (

If your country is not listed you must contact the Doctoral Academy Admissions Team providing a detailed CV (to include academic qualifications – stating degree classification(s) and dates awarded) and relevant transcripts.

Following the review of your qualifications and with support from potential supervisor(s), you will be informed whether you can submit a formal online application.

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

Funding Notes

Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries 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.

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
Search Suggestions

Search Suggestions

Based on your current searches we recommend the following search filters.

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.