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Using a novel anal epithelial 3D cell culture model to understand human papillomavirus induced transcriptional programming

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr A Macdonald, Prof A Whitehouse  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) infect oral and ano-genital epithelia and their lifecycle is intrinsically tied to differentiation of the host cell. To study HPV, three-dimensional primary cell culture models that recapitulate the differentiation-dependent environment of the epithelium are required. These provide a unique opportunity to understand epithelial cell biology.

Such models have transformed our understanding of HPV infection of the cervical and oral epithelium. In contrast, we know almost nothing of the biology of HPV infection in the anal epithelium. This is detrimental, as we witness an increase in incidence of HPV-positive anal cancers.

We have established one of the first primary cell culture models of the anal epithelium capable of supporting HPV infection. This offers an unrivalled opportunity to understand how HPV infection results in malignancy. This project will use RNA-Seq to generate a global view of HPV-induced transcriptional changes. Altered target genes will be tested for their role in the virus lifecycle and malignancy.

This multidisciplinary project combines computational analysis of RNA-sequencing data with laboratory techniques including real time PCR, confocal imaging and primary cell culture.

This project will identify how HPV manipulates the anal epithelium, provide new knowledge of host cell biology and reveal new therapeutic targets.


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper-second class honours degree or a MSc degree in a relevant subject.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Biological Sciences minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.0 overall, with no element less than 5.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 87 with the listening and reading element no less than 20, writing element no less than 21 and the speaking element no less than 22.

How to apply:

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).

To help us identify that you are applying for this studentship please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • When asked for source of funding please make it clear that you are applying for a "White Rose BBSRC DTP Studentship"
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert. You can be considered for up to 3 projects in total.

If you have any further queries regarding this opportunity, please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This opportunity is funded by the White Rose BBSRC DTP and will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £17,668 (based on the 2022/23 rate). The award will also cover academic fees. This opportunity is available to UK and International fee rated applicants. Please note that any expenses related to the relocation of international students to the UK (visa, insurance, NHS fees, flights, etc) would be their responsibility and are not covered by this award.

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