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The Identification of Novel Biomarkers for Traumatic Bone Fracture Healing S&T15

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T15

Traumatic bone fracture prevalence is increasing, causing significant health and socioeconomic burden. The fracture healing process can be problematic, with up to 15% of cases leading to delayed healing that causes continuous pain and loss of function, clearly impacting an individual’s quality of life. Furthermore, the treatment cost for complicated healing of fracture could be up to £15,000 per case. Methods of predicting healing progress are mainly based upon radiological evaluation, which can detect late-onset changes, thus causing a delayed diagnosis. Therefore, the search for alternatives, such as serum biomarkers, that help follow-up healing progress and predict potential complications at an early stage is urgently required.

Recent research data has indicated a link between several serum miRNAs in relation to bone diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and their related fractures. This project aims to identify novel biomarkers (particularly serum miRNAs contained within membrane-bound extracellular vesicles [exosomes]) of bone healing following traumatic fractures. These serum factors will be isolated and quantified during the three phases of normal bone healing and compared to fracture delayed healing. The functional impact of candidate miRNAs on bone progenitor cells (i.e., multipotent stromal cells) will also be assessed using functional assays of proliferation, differentiation and immunoregulation. The project will include a detailed assessment of the mechanisms that underlie changes in multipotent stromal cell functions. Another arm of the study will compare serum miRNAs in resting and exercise conditions to further understand the physiological impact of these factors on bone and validate the effectiveness of these factors as biomarkers.

This project offers the candidate researcher valuable research experience through extensive training in the latest laboratory and analytic techniques. Human samples will be analysed in vitro to quantify serum factors and conduct functional tests to achieve the project objectives. It is envisaged that this programme of work will add to the existing knowledge base related to bone regeneration by identifying novel biomarkers of key events in the process and eventually would help to predict bone fracture complications and ensure early treatment. The research could also pave the way to identify new therapeutic targets to improve cell-based regenerative therapies for various bone/cartilage degenerative diseases.  The supervision team from the Biosciences and Sport Science departments with expertise in cellular/molecular biology of bone regeneration and human physiology will enrich the research plan and ensure high-quality outcomes.

The supervisory team for this study include an early-career researcher (ECR), Dr Jehan El-Jawhari as director of the study and two established researchers; Dr Elisabetta Verderio-Edwards and Prof Craig Sale. This multidisciplinary supervision team will work collaboratively to meet the SST aim to enhance the quality and breadth of the research activities.

School strategic research priority

This PhD project will involve detailed research aiming to improve bone health and related therapies that align with the CHAUD strategies to promote diagnostic and therapeutic development for chronic diseases and further enhance CHAUD capabilities, culture and commitments. This project will additionally help to boost CHAUD-MTIF connections. Additionally, research data related to biomarkers would link the SST academic expertise to the NTU digital health and IMEC.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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