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microRNA in acute liver injury

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Dear
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Medical Research Scotland
PhD Studentship Award

This project is one of 15 PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland (http://www.medicalresearchscotland.org.uk) to be delivered jointly by the named University and Company. The Studentship will provide the first-class academic and commercial training needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"Development of microRNA-19 as a marker, mediator and treatment for liver injury" to be delivered by the University of Edinburgh and AstraZeneca (http://www.astrazeneca.co.uk/) [Company supervisor: Dr Dominic Williams].

Acute injury to the liver is a life-threatening consequence of paracetamol overdose – a clinical scenario that is extremely common (around 100,000 cases attending UK hospitals every year, cost £50million). Currently, we do not have the tools to precisely identify who must be treated and we only have one drug that provides protection only against early liver damage. No current treatment stimulates an injured liver to recover.

By systematically studying this poisoning in humans we have identified a microRNA (miR-19) in the blood that falls substantially with severe liver damage. Going from humans into mice and fish models we, and others, have demonstrated that only one cell type in the liver (hepatic stellate cells) makes miR-19. miR-19 falls when these cells are activated by liver injury and this fall prevents liver cell regeneration and organ recovery. Therefore, we propose that miR-19 is a marker, mediator and new treatment for liver injury.

In addition to treating paracetamol overdose, miR-19 also has great potential value to the UK pharmaceutical industry because new drugs carry a risk of liver toxicity that can result in huge financial loss. We have partnered with AstraZeneca to ensure our work has commercial value, in addition to benefiting patients.

This project will determine if miR-19 measurement in humans can help doctors identify which patients have life-threatening illness and will use world-leading disease models (mice and zebrafish) in the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool to address a series of cogent aims that define the mechanistic contribution of miR-19 to liver failure. MicroRNA therapies are now coming to patients so, finally, we will test if replacing miR-19 can help the liver to recover from damage.


Enquiries should be sent by email to Dr James Dear:
[Email Address Removed]


Candidates must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK BSc Honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in an appropriate discipline. If English is not the candidate’s first language then appropriate qualifications, as per the University of Edinburgh’s guidelines, must be in place before the PhD Studentship commences.

Applicants should send a CV, the contact details of 2 references (including email addresses) and a covering letter, explaining why the applicant wishes to carry out this project, by email to Dr James Dear:
[Email Address Removed]

Interviews are expected to take place 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications.

It is anticipated that the PhD Studentship will start in October 2016.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £16,500, increasing to £17,000 over the four years; tuition fees at UK/EU rates only; consumables; and contribution to travel expenses. International fees are not covered.



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