PhD International Scholarships in Development of a New Treatment for Osteoarthritis

  • PHD
  • UK tuition fees, stipend + support grant
  • 14 March 2022

Project in detail: Development of a new treatment for osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is associated with significant pain and functional impairment that can severely limit mobility and quality of life and as such, is a significant global healthcare burden that is increasing with the aging population. Despite the high prevalence of OA, there are still no effective treatments that can limit progression of disease or increase the function of affected joints. Osteoarthritis is a whole joint disease, with a complex pathogenesis leading to structural destruction and failure of the synovial joint. The hallmarks of OA are destruction of the articular cartilage matrix and underlying subchondral bone. It is well established that this destruction is driven by the cells of the articular cartilage (chondrocytes) which adopt an abnormal hypertrophic phenotype. Several types of molecule including cytokines, enzymes and transcription factors maintain homeostasis of healthy cartilage.

We have previously shown that matrix extracellular phosphoglycoprotein (MEPE) is an important regulator of cartilage homeostasis and chondrocyte hypertrophy. Importantly, we have also demonstrated that MEPE levels are lower in mice predisposed to age-related OA. Peptides derived from MEPE were shown to increase articular cartilage formation and are being tested in patients with mild to moderate patello-femoral OA in two phase II clinical trials.

This project will investigate the use of MEPE and MEPE-derived peptides as therapies for OA using our novel drug delivery system, known as the latency-associated peptide (‘LAP’) fusion protein technology. This approach enables the delivery of high local concentrations of therapeutic molecules at site(s) of disease, thus eliminating side-effects and increasing therapeutic efficacy. Efficient delivery of MEPE and MEPE-derived peptides to arthritic joints in vivo will allow us to test the efficacy of these proteins on the pathologic changes that occur to bone and cartilage in age-related joint disease.

The student will engage in a novel translational area of research that may contribute to the development of novel therapies for age-related arthritic disease. This interdisciplinary project will provide diverse training including: engineering of recombinant proteins, expression of recombinant proteins from mammalian tissue culture systems, protein biochemistry techniques, methods in molecular biology and harvesting of ex vivo tissue.  Additional training in scientific writing, science communication, project management and teamwork will be provided formally through postdoctoral training programmes at the University of Brighton and Brighton and Sussex Medical School which is a partnership between the Universities of Brighton and Sussex.

Brighton and Sussex Medical School
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Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) is an equal partnership between the Universities of Sussex and Brighton together with NHS organisations throughout the South East region. The school offers undergraduate medical training, a range of postgraduate taught courses and postgraduate research.

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Academic entry requirements

Applicants should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First class honours undergraduate degree (or non-UK equivalent) in biochemistry or biomedical science. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Master's level.

Applicants are also required to submit a response to the project call of up to 500 words.

Eligibility criteria

Due to the post’s funding it is only open to home applicants as defined by the  Fees Regulations.

English language entry requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must have successfully completed a Secure English language Test (SELT) in the last two years. Applicants who have obtained or are studying for a UK degree may apply without a SELT. However, the university may request a SELT is taken as part of any award made.

English language IELTS requirements are minimum of 7.0 overall, 7 for writing and none below 6.5

We accept a number of English language qualification including IELTS. Please contact us if you have any queries arising from this. Further details can be found here:

Prove your English language abilities with a secure English language test (SELT) - GOV.UK (

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This studentship is funded by the University of Brighton. For UK students the studentship consists of full UK tuition fees as well as a Doctoral Stipend for three years at the UKRI rate together with a research training support grant of £1500 p.a.

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