Browse potential PhD projects

  1. Design and evaluation of amphiphilic drug-polymer conjugates. (Dr Colin Thompson)
    Amphiphilic polymers self-assemble inaqueous solution to form nano-sized particles. These particles can be used to deliver drugs to specific tissues based on their size and covalently attached targeting ligands. These have principally been developed for use in chemotherapy, but could be used to deliver drugs for other conditions. Drugs can either be physically loaded into these particles or covalently attached.The choice of covalent linker can increase the specificity of the drug delivery, by being cleaved under certain environmental conditions only found at the target site. This project would involve the design, synthesis and characterisation of a range of polymers. The characterisation of these polymers would involve a range of techniques including, NMR and IR. Drug loading and release as well as cell culture evaluation (on appropriate model cell lines) would also be carried out to determine the optimal polymer structure to deliver each drug used.
  2. Use of polyelectrolyte complexes for drug delivery (Dr Colin Thompson)
    Polyelectrolyte complexes (PECs) are produced by mixing solutions of oppositely charged polymers. PECs have more desirable properties than each individual polymer, i.e. tensile strength and mucoadhesion, and are used to produce delivery systems for drugs via a number of routes, e.g. oral, buccal, and nasal. The versatility of these complexes allows them to be used to deliver a variety of drugs for many different conditions, e.g. ulcerative colitis, hypertension. This project would involve the selection of a range of oppositely charged polymers to produce PECs. The student would also have input into the choice of delivery route, drug and dosage form to be produced. The PECs would be analysed to determine their mechanical, as well as mucoadhesive, properties. A range of drugs would be formulated using these PECs into appropriate dosage forms for the delivery route. Each dosage form will be characterised by a variety of techniques, e.g.drug release, texture analysis, and cell culture evaluation, in order to determine the optimal PEC for the chosen drug.
  3. Inflammation and malignant transformation in human colon carcinogenesis: impact of folic acid (Prof. Susan Duthie)
    Fortification of flour with synthetic folic acid was introduced in the USA and Canada in 1998 to reduce the incidence of birth defects in babies. Worryingly, information from national cancer statistics in these countries suggests that fortifying foods with synthetic folic acid may have increased colon cancer incidence. Additionally, several large-scale human trials have also reported an increase in the risk of colon tumours in subjects taking folic acid supplements. Sustained inflammation and DNA damage are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer (CC). Folic acid intake may alter the inflammatory process in the body and CC risk. In this project, we are investigating the impact that high concentrations of synthetic folic acid has on inflammation and DNA damage in human colon cells. We will study whether synthetic folic acid, at the concentrations found in human blood and colon cells after food fortification, can lead to an increase in chronic inflammation, DNA damage and markers of cancer development in human colonocytes. We will establish whether exposure to high levels of synthetic folic acid induces inflammation in human colon cells and changes the characteristics of these cells, making them more prone to becoming cancerous.
  4. The impact of dietary phytochemicals on low grade inflammation in human colon carcinogenesis (Prof. Susan Duthie)
    Chronic inflammation and genomic instability are enablers of carcinogenesis. Diet is a major environmental factor that profoundly influences human health and wellbeing. Diets rich in plant products such as cereals, fruits and vegetables protect against several human degenerative pathologies including colon cancer. This project investigates how specific phytochemicals in the human diet act to modify an immune response in inflammatory cells both in the circulation and in the human gut and subsequently how they mediate changes in gut integrity that can lead to colon cancer. We will identify the major dietary compounds present in human biological samples following intervention in human studies with key plant-based food groups (soft fruits, cruciferous vegetables and cereals) that are known to protect against human colon cancer. We will show whether, and at what levels, these phytochemicals modulate an inflammatory response in human monocytes and colon fibroblasts and the impact on markers of genomic stability and malignant transformation in human colon cells.
  5. Terminalia ivorensis and human health: impact of TI on biomarkers of genotoxicity in human cancer cells in vitro. (Prof. Susan Duthie)
    Terminalia ivorensis (Ivory Coast almond) is believed to have antibacterial, inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties in people and has been used widely throughout the world in ethnic-medicine. Terminalia ivorensis is rich in phytochemicals including tannins, terpenoids and several phytophenols (such as ellagic acid and quercetin) that are known potent antioxidants and cytoprotective agents in man. In this project we are investigating the cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of Terminalia ivorensis (and its major components) in human cancer cells in culture. We are assessing the cytotoxic properties of both the plant extract and key phytochemicals isolated from the extract, at medicinally-relevant concentrations. We are using a variety of in vitro biomarkers relevant to xenobiotic metabolism, cell metabolism and carcinogenesis to assess the impact of Terminalia ivorensis on genomic stability in human cancer cells in culture.

Questions about a research degree opportunity?

For general enquires, contact the School's Research Degrees coordinator

  • Colin Thompson

    Colin Thompsom

    Dr Thompson is a lecturer in Surface Chemistry and Drug Delivery and Research Degrees Coordinator at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. His research interests lie in the areas of polymer-drug conjugates, Drug micro- and nano-encapsulation, Polyelectrolyte delivery systems and Oral protein delivery.  

  • For practice research enquires:

  • Derek Stewart

    Professor Derek Stewart

    Professor Stewart is a professor and practice research lead at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. His research focus is in the area of pharmacy practice development, implementation and evaluation. His general interests lie in health services research methodologies and non-medical prescribing.  

  • For translational research enquires:

  • Susan Duthie

    Susan Duthie

    Dr Susan Duthie is the Associate Head of School and Translational Research Lead at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. Her research interests include mechanisms of action of dietary nutrients on human health, the impact of plant compounds on human health, cancer and vascular disease; and the impact of micronutrients on cancer.