About the Project
However, with the recent advances in plant cell culture techniques and genetic engineering, it is now possible to use plant cell cultures maintained in bioreactors as a source of medicinal compounds. One of the success stories in this area is Paclitaxel (PTX); this chemotherapeutic agent which is used to treat a number of cancers is now produced by cell culture although it was first isolated from the Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia).
As part of this current project, the student will study the anticancer, antiviral and antibacterial activity of lignans derived from different Taxus species as well as optimise their production in cell cultures by modulating the biochemical pathway. The lignans are a structurally diverse group of compounds that in many cases pose a significant synthetic challenge for chemical synthesis, hence the project offers very significant opportunities.
The first phase of the project will utilise established protocols for Taxus baccata and Taxus brevifolia and make use of the excellent cell-culture facilities (currently working with Arabidopsis and tobacco) available in the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering to develop protocols for another ten Taxus species.
In the second phase, work will focus on modulating the biosynthetic pathways by using unnatural amino acids as a feedstock; a large number of unnatural amino acids are commercially available. The resulting lignans, some of which will be novel, will be fully characterised and evaluated in a range of biological screens to assess anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral activities (this work will be conducted in the Faculty of Medical Sciences).
The multidisciplinary nature of this project represents great opportunities for the student and would be particularly suited to a Biomedical Science or Pharmacy graduate and allow them to obtain valuable training in chemistry, computational and molecular biology, plant sciences, and pharmacology. Applicant should hold or expect to hold a 2:1 or 1st class degree. If you are interested in applying, send your CV and covering letter detailing your reasons for applying for this studentship to Postgraduate Student Coordinator at School of Pharmacy at email@example.com.
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