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Role of Leptin in intervertebral disc degeneration


Project Description

Back pain is a major cause of morbidity worldwide and the incidence and severity of back pain increases with age. Approximately 40% of all back pain cases are caused by disease in the joints in the spine, known as the intervertebral discs. These discs enable the spine to move, and absorb load during normal daily activities. These spinal discs degenerate as a result of abnormal cell behaviour and mechanical damage. This results in an increased production of natural chemicals which can damage the disc and stimulate local nerves, making the back very painful. Disc disease is associated with a number of risk factors including obesity and age. During obesity levels of a small molecule known as leptin is increased. This has been shown to induce cell division and production of the natural chemicals which are seen in disc disease. Obesity also increases the load on the spinal discs, which could lead to the changes seen in disc disease. However, the mechanisms behind disc disease in the obese, is poorly understood. This study aims to identify whether leptin levels are increased within the discs of overweight individuals and whether this is associated with increased disc disease. The roles of leptin during disc disease will be determined in human cells and tissues and in animal models where leptin is dysfunctional. This study will further the understanding of the mechanisms of disc disease and thus aid in the development of therapies to prevent and treat disc disease and low back pain.

Funding Notes

Application Process

Candidates should apply to Sheffield Hallam University via the University application form, including a 1500 word research proposal (section 9) demonstrating your background reading on the topic of the PhD and your plans for how you would undertake this programme.
Please include a cover letter describing why you are interested in pursuing postgraduate studies and how you meet the selection criteria.

An application form can be downloaded at the following URL:

View Website

For enquiries about the project please contact Prof Christine Le Maitre, .

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