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  The cellular response to stress: roles in disease and ageing

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr Alan Whitmarsh, Prof Mark Ashe, Dr G Poulin  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

All living organisms need to adapt to their environment in order to survive and reproduce. They are subjected to many stresses including altered oxygen levels, heat or cold, irradiation, infection and injury. Dependent upon the type of stress, different pathways are activated in cells to promote repair and survival. A common feature of these stress responses is the temporary inhibition of protein production in cells. This coincides with RNAs, translation factors and signalling proteins coalescing to form cytoplasmic stress granules. Importantly, stress granules increase the resistance of cells to stress. However, if they are not properly regulated, this can have a serious impact on health. For example, their assembly is increased in cancer cells giving them a survival advantage and they are proposed to seed the formation of protein aggregates in neurons that underpin neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – the most common form of motor neurone disease. In addition, there is evidence that stress granules form and aggregate during normal ageing and that preventing this can increase lifespan in the animal model C. elegans. Our aim is to gain a better understanding of how stress granules are regulated as part of the normal physiological response to stress and during ageing. This understanding will help determine how manipulating stress granule assembly and function can be exploited for therapeutic benefit to counter ageing and age-related diseases.


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject area.

Before you Apply 

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.  

How to Apply 

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title - PhD Cell Biology.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]  

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  

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website


Cao X et al. (2020) Aging Cell 19: e13136
Sfakianos A et al. (2018) Cell Death Diff 25:1766-1780
Lechler MC et al. (2017) Cell Rep 18:454-467.
Sfakianos A et al. (2016) Biochem Soc Trans 44: 1411-1416.
Protter DSW & Parker R (2016) Trends Cell Biol 26: 668-679.
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