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Uncovering the role of oral bacteria in vascular disease

Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre

Dr P Stafford , Dr Daniel Kelly , Prof C Le Maitre Wednesday, September 30, 2020 Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully-funded (42 months) PhD project will focus on the role of oral bacteria in aggravating vascular disease. For decades, a link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been postulated. Here we will examine how Periodontitis- a chronic inflammatory oral disease, affecting over 743 million people has a strong association with systemic disease including diabetes and CVD. These conditions, which are increasing in the ageing population, remain the leading cause of death worldwide as well as impairing quality of life and causing considerable economic burden.

During periodontitis, gum-bleeding causes increased numbers of bacteria to enter the bloodstream where it is thought that they contribute to and aggravate chronic vascular disease. However, the underlying mechanism contributing to disease exacerbation is not fully understood. One possible mechanism is via the activation of platelets- which modulate clotting and are increasingly linked with innate immunity and with conditions such as vascular disease.

You will build on previous work from the group showing that periodontal bacteria adhere to and activate platelets. Using laboratory 2D cell and 3D tissue vascular models and state-of-the-art microfluidic systems to simulate relevant physiological conditions within the vasculature, you will determine how these bacteria modify platelet behaviour and influence the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. These studies will identify at a molecular and cellular level how periodontitis-causing oral bacteria interact with platelets and affect the vasculature to increase cardiovascular risk. It will help inform patient treatment and identify new targets for drug development or markers for disease diagnosis.

This project will allow the candidate to develop expertise in a range of techniques: developing novel physiologically relevant 3D vascular models, culture of anaerobic pathogens, platelet aggregation and cell assays, histology and immunohistochemistry. Confocal imaging will be used to visualise host-pathogen interactions and changes in expression levels of proteins of interest will be probed using multiplex cytokine arrays. Training will be provided in relevant techniques.

This multidisciplinary PhD project will be based in the state of the art laboratory facilities in the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University and will involve collaborative work with colleagues at the University of Sheffield, Medical School and School of Clinical Dentistry. The successful applicant will be joining a vibrant research team with established expertise in the area of microbiology, platelet biology /cell biology, vascular research and 3D tissue models. You will be supervised by Dr Prachi Stafford ( with Dr Dan Kelly and Professor Christine Le Maitre as co-supervisors and will work in a vibrant research group together with experienced staff, PhD students, Postdocs and technicians.

Further information on the studentships and how to apply can be found here: BMRC GTA Studentships

The Biomolecular Research Centre conducts research activity in several key areas:

• Disease mechanisms

• Bioanalytical Science

• Molecular Microbiology

• Chemistry

• Biomaterials

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 staff from the BMRC were returned in the Biological Sciences unit of assessment (UoA5) with 46 per cent of our research being rated as world leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3*).

In 2012 the BMRC was awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award, which was renewed in 2016 then again in 2019, for 3 years. Athena SWAN is a charter to advance women’s careers in STEM subjects. The award recognises and celebrates good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in STEM subject areas within higher education.

As a research centre we offer a vibrant community in which postgraduate researchers work closely with academics to develop their knowledge and expertise. We have a community of approximately 45 postgraduate students in BMRC who are at the heart of contributing to our research output. All doctoral students are supported by a comprehensive programme of doctoral training and encouraged to present their research at national and international conferences.

More information about the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University can be found at

To apply, or for queries regarding the application process and eligibility, please contact . For specific details about the project or for help with your proposal contact

To view the GTA homepage with full details of the studentship please follow this link:

Funding Notes

This GTA studentship provides UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21) for 3.5 years. International applicants please note that the shortfall between the Home and Overseas fee must be covered by the student.

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate science-based degree. A Master’s degree in a relevant discipline would be an advantage as will be an interest in microbiology, platelet biology or 3D tissue culture. Suitable candidates should also be highly motivated with an interest in vascular biology and disease-oriented research.

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