Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

October, February and April

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This is a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship. The project is supervised by Dr Susanne Dietrich.

Joint diseases have a serious impact on the quality of life of the elderly, and are on the increase in an ageing population. Frequently, the condition worsens when bony spurs form within the joint.

When cartilage and bone first form in the embryo, developing joints are kept bone-free. Likewise, in healthy joints, the space between the adjoining bones is kept free of hard tissues.

We have identified Dact proteins as novel players in joint formation and joint health. We believe Dact proteins are able to suppress unwanted bone formation, and they do so by simultaneously controlling several cell-cell communication pathways. On this project, you'll establish the biological and molecular function of Dact proteins in joints.

The work will include:

  • analysis of phenotypes through in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemistry, skeletal preparations and by quantitative methods such as qPCR
  • designing and engineering molecular constructs to knock-down or to misexpress Dact genes
  • introducing these constructs into the developing joints of chicken embryos

You'll investigate the function of Dact proteins using the developing joints of a chicken embryo as a model. You'll engineer molecular constructs to misexpress Dacts, to knock down Dact function, and introduce constructs into the limbs prior to bone formation, using in-ovo electroporation. You'll then establish how bone formation may be affected.

On this project, we will collaborate with bioinformaticians to model regulatory cascades. This will help identify molecules and pathways that can be targeted by novel drugs for osteoarthritis.

The experimental and analytical skills developed during this project will prepare you for future work in academia or industry.

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

A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.

Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. All applicants are subject to interview.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

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.