The epidermis of the skin provides an essential barrier between our bodies and the external environment through the formation of a dense cornified layer of cross-linked proteins and lipids at the surface of the skin. Chemical insult or impaired lipid synthesis can damage the cornified layer and lead to barrier dysfunction; however the fundamental relationships between lipid content and barrier biophysical properties remains poorly defined. In addition, there is a need for improved human-based experimental models for investigating lipid function and barrier repair in vitro, and for the evaluation of new therapeutic compounds.
The aim of this PhD studentship is to develop a 3D organotypic skin model of impaired lipid synthesis in order to dissect the functional relationships between lipid synthesis, barrier mechanics, and tissue repair. In addition, this platform will be used to evaluate lipid mimetic compounds developed by the GSK Skin Health group. The project will employ shRNA to stably knockdown key enzymes involved in lipid biosynthesis and advanced biophysical methods to characterise the effects of impaired lipid synthesis and the response to lipid-mimetic treatments on skin barrier function.
The project will consist of three major objectives: 1. Build and characterise 3D skin models of impaired lipid synthesis. 2. Develop quantitative relationships between lipid content and epidermal mechanics through lipidomic profiling and biophysical methods. 3. Assess the effects of different lipid-based compounds on the biophysical properties and cellular functions within the model system.
The successful completion of this project will provide fundamental insights in the mechanistic relationships between lipid content and epidermal barrier function. These findings will have a significant impact on our understanding of normal skin function and the consequences of lipid deficiencies. Importantly, this new knowledge could help identify new therapeutic targets for the treatment and repair of skin barrier damage.
Fully funded place including home (UK) tuition fees and a tax-free stipend in the region of £16,553. Students from the EU are welcome to submit an application for funding, any offers will be subject to BBSRC approval and criteria.