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The impact of skincare ingredients on skin-resident immune cell responses

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Prof S Bulfone-Paus, Prof R Watson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The project forms part of The Boots Company Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP), which aims to develop entrepreneurial, highly trained doctorate scientists with transferable research and business skills, who will make valuable contributions to the UK economy by tackling bioscience challenges of the future.

This CTP PhD opportunity is a partnership between the No7 Beauty Company, within The Boots Company PLC, and the University of Manchester. The No7 Beauty Company’s collection of inclusive and innovative beauty brands including No7, Liz Earle Beauty Company, Botanics, Soap & Glory, Sleek MakeUp and YourGoodSkin stem from a rich heritage of over 85 years in beauty and skincare. We are powered by a deep understanding of our customers and their needs with science at the heart of the skin care solutions and services developed. 

We believe that the maintenance of healthy skin for life is key in helping people lead healthier and happier lives and progress cannot be made in achieving healthy skin without cutting-edge research into skin biology, with direct access to consumers and patients Boots and No7 Beauty Company play a vital role in delivering scientific insights into the UK skincare market.

The skin serves as a barrier, sensory, and immune organ and consists of a complex network of immune resident cells crucial for host defense and tissue homeostasis.

This project aims to investigate the response of key skin resident immune cells e.g. T cells, mast cells and macrophages, to inflammatory challenges and assess the impact of skin care ingredients on these responses. In vitro cell systems will be used to define key markers of immune cell activity following different inflammatory stimuli and to understand how treatment with different skin care ingredients (e.g. retinol, nicotinamide) may influence the immune cell phenotype and have an impact cell proliferation, activation and mediator secretion.

Furthermore, ex vivo human skin explants will be used to investigate the impact of the skin microenvironment on immune cell activities. RNA sequencing, flow cytometry and high throughput histology techniques will be utilised to understand how cosmetic ingredients might target cellular inflammatory pathways and to design predictive models of the anti-inflammatory potential of specific skin care products.

Thus, this project promises to deliver an in-depth experience in both laboratory and clinical aspects of skin research, bioinformatics training, and the opportunity to gain insights into skin care formulation and commercial applications of scientific research.

Prof Bulfone-Paus, MC biologist and Prof Rachel Watson, skin biologist, have complementary expertise that will be applied to this project. The student will benefit from the experience in both laboratory and clinical aspects of skin research, in addition to supporting bioinformatics training for the analysis of gene and protein data. Methodologically: the project will include the use of human skin in vivo and ex vivo models, culturing skin structural cells, the differentiation of human mast cells and the evaluation of their function by state-of-the-art flow cytometry, advanced immunofluorescence, transcriptomic analysis and bioinformatics analysis, immunophenotyping approaches.

In addition, as part of the CTP program, the student will be expected to participate in business skills and personal development training. A placement of a minimum of 3 months will also be provided, giving the student the opportunity to choose their own technical and/or business training from across a number of business areas including, claims, regulatory, packaging innovation and consumer insights.

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject. Candidates with previous laboratory experience, particularly in cell culture, flow cytometry and molecular biology, are particularly encouraged to apply. In addition to the academic requirements for the project the following skills and behaviours would be highly advantageous: 

• A curiosity to expand your knowledge of business practices and how research insights can be translated into consumer applications 

• An appreciation of the benefits of stakeholder management 

• Strong communication skills with the ability to tailor information to the needs of different audiences

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( 

Interested candidates must first make contact with the Primary Supervisor prior to submitting a formal application, to discuss their interest and suitability for the project. On the online application form select PhD Musculoskeletal.

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from both UK and non-UK residents. However, please be aware that if you are a non-UK applicant, the BBSRC requirements cap the number of PhDs that can be filled by non-UK residents at 30% per academic year.
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

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