Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded PhD. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health, and will be supervised by Dr Sarah Fouch, Professor Darek Gorecki and Dr Kristina Wanyonyi. 

The work on this project will involve:

  • Working with clinical samples, from varying geographical locations, to contribute and enhance understanding of the bacterial species and expression levels of P2X7 associated with the initial and chronic phases of periodontitis
  • Investigating the bacterial/P2X7 interactions to identify their importance in periodontitis
  • Evaluating potential treatment targets for both the initial and chronic phases of periodontitis

This project brings together expertise within Microbiology, Dentistry and Biochemistry to contribute and enhance understanding of Periodontitis, a disease affecting 45% of the population (1) that has a significant health impact.  Periodontitis causes the destruction of periodontal connective tissue, bone and ultimately tooth loss but also increases the risk of several systemic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. 

Periodontitis is a pathology cause by a hyperimmune response against bacteria in the oral cavity. Aimed primarily at pathogen elimination, the host defence includes activation of acquired and innate immunity triggered by extracellular ATP (eATP) released from damaged cells acting on the P2X7 ATP receptor (purinoceptor) (2,3).  However, P2X7 activation can result in both positive and negative clinical outcomes depending on a range of factors (4).  

The current project aims to use molecular, biochemical and classical culture methods to identify and determine P2X7/bacterial interactions to ascertain the role of such interplay in differing stages of periodontal disease and identify whether modulation of P2X7 receptors can alter the disease progression.

The Portsmouth Biochemistry and Microbiology laboratories have expertise and specialised equipment and, discipline specific training will be provided. In addition, a full program of graduate training will be provided by the Graduate School. 


  1. Ahmed H. Oral Health: What is Gum Disease? British Dent J. 2017;222:323–323.
  2. Trubiani O, et al., Expression of P2X7 ATP receptor mediating the IL-8 and CCL20 release in human periodontal ligament stem cells. J Cell Biochem. 2014;115:1138–1146.
  3. Young C and Gorecki D. P2RX7 Purinoceptor as a Therapeutic Target – The Second Coming? Frontiers in Chemistry. 2018; 6.
  4. Kim JJ et al., NLRP3 inflammasome and host protection against bacterial infection. J Korean Med Sci. 2013; 28:1415–1423.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Entry requirements

You'll need an upper second class honours degree from an internationally recognised university or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We are seeking a talented student with a strong background in either Microbiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology or a related area.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Biomedical Sciences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.