Biology of Cancer
The Biology of Cancer strand offers students the possibility of undertaking research alongside internationally recognised scientists who are working to understand cancer and find new ways to detect and treat the disease.
Both fundamental and translational research is offered. Fundamental research includes activities such as dissecting the roles of specific oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes, and their signalling pathways. Translational research is more patient oriented, and includes activities such as examining patient samples for the presence of biological entities (DNA, RNA or protein biomarkers) that will enable early detection of cancer or allow predictions of which patients are likely to respond to particular treatments.
Students in this strand are allocated research projects that maximise their skills in the key research techniques of molecular biology, protein biochemistry, microscopy, and the statistical analysis of patient data sets.
Examples of research projects include fundamental and translational research of pancreatic cancer (supervisors: Costello, Greenhalf, Palmer, Ghaneh, Halloran), head and neck cancers (supervisors: Boyd, Jones, Shaw, Rubbi), blood cancers, such as leukaemias and lymphomas (supervisors: Pettitt, Slupsky, Kalakonda) and tumours affecting the eyes (supervisor: Coupland).
Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing
The Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing strand offers students an opportunity to work with world renowned researchers who are using biomedical imaging and sophisticated image analysis techniques to answer basic physiological and biological questions for addressing clinical problems.
Expertise is available in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Multi-Spectral Optoacoustic Tomography (MSOT), which is a novel imaging method utilizing pulsed-lase light and ultrasound to generate imaging data. Investigators are also developing sophisticated image segmentation and registration methods for analysis of imaging data to solve major clinical and research questions. Ongoing research projects include MRI for applications in neuro-imaging, brain cancer, kidney function and liver regeneration; MSOT imaging for assessing kidney and liver function; tissue pH and electrical conductivity measurement of tissues using MRI.
Students will have an opportunity to develop skills in data acquisition, analysis and interpretation of biomedical imaging, a rapidly progressing field in the modern world of clinical research. Specific skills set may include a combination of the following: (1) developing animal models of diseases (2) image processing and analysis (3) statistical analysis of imaging data (4) basic MATLAB programming and hands on experience in image processing software like AMIRA, FSL, ImageJ and (5) critical interpretation of imaging data.
Participating faculties include investigators from the Centre for Pre-Clinical Imaging (CPI); Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology; Neurology; Centre for Mathematical Imaging and Techniques (CMIT); Institute of Ageing and Chronic Diseases (IACD); The Walton Trust (Neurosurgery and Radiology) and the Alder Hey Children’s hospital (Radiology).
The Cancer Medicine strand offers students the possibility of undertaking research alongside internationally recognised basic and clinical scientists. The students joining this strand are mostly funded by the newly established North West Cancer Research Fund (NWCRF) Doctoral Training Account although other students especially intercalating medical students are also welcome.
Both fundamental and translational research is offered. Fundamental research includes activities such as dissecting the role of stroma in cancer progression, DNA repair mechanisms. Translational research includes development of biomarkers for early detection of cancer and treatment options.
Students in this strand are allocated to research projects that match the NWCRF strategic research areas, such as basic mechanisms underpinning cancers and pancreatic, lung, eye, head and neck cancers.
Examples of research projects include fundamental and applied research of the role of stromal cells, such as macrophages, in pancreatic cancer progression (supervisors: Schmid, Mielgo); Mechanisms of ubiquitination (Clague, Urbe).
Drug Safety is an exciting branch of experimental science that combines Pharmacology and Toxicology which informs how to design safer drugs through knowledge of mechanisms of adverse drug reactions.
The MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science has longstanding expertise in chemical, molecular, cellular and clinical aspects of research in adverse drug reactions, with particular expertise in biomarkers. Training will be carried out under the remit of the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Sciences, of which there is only one in the UK. We undertake a significant amount of research in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry.
Examples of research projects include:
- Development of novel preclinical test systems to identify toxicological potential in new drug candidates;
- Development of novel clinical genotyping screens to identify susceptible individuals and inform their therapeutic management;
- Informing the drug design process at an early stage to avoid incorporation of potentially toxic chemical motifs.
This strand runs in collaboration with the Management School. Health Economics is an increasingly important are of medical research. It is a branch of economics concerned with issues related to efficiency and value of for money for both diagnostics, treatment and care of patients. Key areas of research include pharmacoeconomics, health technology assessment and economic evaluation of new pharmaceutical products.
Examples of research projects include: Evaluation of the efficiency of biomarkers for monitoring vascular surgical procedures (Haycox), Evaluation of use volatile gases from cerebrospinal fluids as biomarkers (Probert).
The Medical Sciences strand may involve up to three separate projects in different areas of medically relevant research, and so may appeal to students who do not wish to specialise in one single research area.
The projects can be drawn from any of the wide range of research areas covered by staff within the Institute of Translational Medicine (ITM). Information on research project areas within ITM can be found in the descriptions of the various other MRes strands contained in this document and from the Institute website http://www.liv.ac.uk/translational-medicine/.
As with the other strands, projects will be allocated by the strand convenor (the member of staff who organises the strand) after consultation with students about their research interests. This new strand is primarily designed for intercalating medical or dental students, but is also available to non-clinical students.
Molecular and Clinical Gastroenterology
The Department of Gastroenterology provides excellent opportunities for laboratory and clinical research focusing on the pathogenesis of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract in humans and animals (www.liv.ac.uk/gastroenterology). The high quality of our research was specifically commented on in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise and we have funding from sources including MRC, BBSRC, Wellcome Trust, NIHR and CRUK. Our focus is on “translational” research that will take advances in basic medical research out of the laboratory and into the hospital or veterinary clinic ‘from the bench to bedside’ in order to improve the health and welfare of people and animals world-wide.
Examples of research projects include: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – role of bacterial factors, the development and assessment of novel therapies (Campbell, Rhodes, Lu); Gastrointestinal Cancers (Pritchard, Jenkins).
We employ the whole range of cutting-edge experimental techniques from mechanistic studies involving cell-lines and gastrointestinal tissues through to patient studies and clinical trials.
Laboratory research is based mainly in the main campus in the Henry Wellcome Laboratory of Molecular & Cellular Gastroenterology. Clinical research and trials are conducted at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Microbial Diseases at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, and at the Leahurst Veterinary Field Station within the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital and Small Animal Teaching Hospital.
Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology
Students are provided with the opportunity for acquisition of research skills and knowledge across modern pharmacological issues. This encompasses fundamental mechanistic studies, clinical analyses and mathematical modelling to understand the mechanisms that underpin pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics for therapy of infectious diseases, cancer, immunological and CNS disorders. Students will have a choice of research projects that will provide training in methodologies to address key questions in these areas and opportunity to test a number of hypotheses.
Examples of techniques that may be acquired include: molecular biology, cell biology, immunology, mass spectrometry, genetic analysis, in silico approaches and/or cloning/transfection. Projects take place in research labs with strong international reputations in general areas such as hypersensitivity, drug safety and personalised medicine.
This strand offers a wide range of research projects in the areas of nanomedicine synthesis, pharmacology and safety. Research projects will cover a variety of ambitions, from development of novel methodological tools for evaluation of nanomaterials, to implementation of pharmacological techniques to aid accelerated translation of bespoke materials towards clinical applications.
Expertise available predominantly relates to drug delivery applications and includes methods for developing nanoparticles as drug delivery vehicles, which spans solid drug nanoparticles, lipid-based materials, or polymer nanoparticles. Expertise for in vitro and in silico characterisation of nanoparticle interactions with biological systems as they relate to the efficacy and safety of nanomaterials is a local strength, which is complemented by in vivo models to confirm nanoparticle pharmacokinetics and distribution. Successful applicants will join an interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in pharmacology, material chemistry, pharmacokinetic modelling, and nanomaterial biocompatibility.
Students will develop (1) their understanding of the benefits and risks of nanomedicine development, (2) their skills in generating and assessing these benefits and risks, and (3) experience in critically interpreting their research findings.
Examples of nanomedicine-based projects include: a) synthesis of nanotechnology-enabled medicines for the treatment of diseases; b) pharmacological evaluation of route-dependent nanoparticle pharmacokinetics; or c) early evaluation of nanomaterial safety (e.g. interactions of drug nanoparticles with the immune system).
The Neuroscience strand covers a wide spectrum of research interests, encompassing studies of the basic cellular and molecular properties of neurons and neuronal signalling, analysis of the neurobiological basis of health and disease, exploration of the structure and function of the human nervous system, and investigation of the characteristics and underlying mechanisms of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders in clinically-orientated research projects.
Projects are based in laboratories across campus in multiple academic departments in the Institute of Translational Medicine and other research institutes. They can also be conducted in collaboration with brain imaging scientists at the MARIARC facility and with clinical neuroscience researchers at the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in North Liverpool. Major areas of active research include epilepsy, demyelinating disorders, neuro-behavioural disorders, neuro-degeneration and MRI-based brain imaging.
Techniques utilised within this strand are highly varied and project-specific but are typically drawn from the broad disciplines of structural and molecular biology, protein biochemistry, pharmacology, electrophysiology, microscopy, genomics and epigenetics, structural and functional MRI neuroimaging, neuropsychological assessment, and clinical disease phenotyping.
Cellular and Molecular Physiology
The Cellular and Molecular Physiology strand covers a wide range of different research areas, from fundamental studies of cell biology to translational work on mechanisms of disease. Despite this diversity, the various research areas share a common aim in trying to understand complex physiological phenomena at the cellular and molecular level. Students in this strand are therefore allocated research projects that maximise their skills in key techniques to address this, such as molecular biology, protein biochemistry, calcium imaging, genetics, microscopy and electrophysiology.
Examples of general research project areas include calcium signalling (supervisors: Burdyga, Burgoyne, Criddle, Haynes, Quayle, Simpson, Tepikin, Wray), cell signalling and ubiquitination (supervisors: Clague, Coulson, Prior, Urbe), protein interactions (supervisor: Sanderson, Hammond), cancer microenvironment (supervisors: M Morgan, Varro) and neuronal function/dysfunction (supervisors: Barclay, Burgoyne, A Morgan, Sanchez-Soriano, Stagi, Swan).
Stem Cells, Tissues and Disease
This strand is focussed on stem cell research and also the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie a variety of human diseases. The research programmes span from single cell-based studies investigating the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis, to whole organism-based preclinical studies investigating the therapeutic potential of stem cells in disease.
Depending on their allocated research project, students in the Stem Cells, Tissues and Disease strand will receive training in various key techniques, such as stem cell and induced pluripotent cell tissue culture, embryo dissection, animal handling, immunostaining, ELISA, flow cytometry, histology and biomarker analysis, microscopy (including immunofluorescence and confocal), cloning and quantitative PCR.
Examples of research project areas include embryonic stem cell and induced pluripotent cell biology (supervisors: Goldring, Murray), mesothelial, endometrial and neural stem cell biology (supervisors: Hapangama, Moss, Wilm), calcium signalling in disease (Criddle, Simpson, Quayle, Tepikin), pathophysiology of diabetes mellitus (supervisors: Mora) and the role of the tissue microenvironment in cancer (supervisors: Sanderson, Varro), Cardiovascular disease (Cross, Quayle, Simpson and Wilm).
Women's, Children's and Perinatal Health
This strand covers a wide range of different research areas, from laboratory based cell biology work to clinical trials. Despite this diversity, the various research areas share a common aim in trying to understand health and the disease related to women’s, children’s and neonatal health.
Students in this strand are therefore allocated research projects that maximise their skills in key techniques to address this, such as research synthesis (meta-analysis) clinical trial management, drug development, a wide variety of advanced laboratory techniques including histopathology and immuno-histo/cyto chemistry, primary cell culture and culturing cell lines, molecular biology including PCR, Western blotting, qFISH, and microscopy.
Student projects take place in the Department with strong international reputations in the areas related to Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Neonatology.
Examples of research project areas include: clinical trials in women and in the newborn in areas of pre-term labour, third stage of labour, global maternal health, RCTs in to the long term follow up of post natal growth restriction, neonatal drug development (supervisors; Weeks, Alfirevic, Weindling, Cooke & Turner), uterine physiology and pre-term labour (supervisor: Wray), maternal obesity and misopristol (supervisor; Weeks), Bioinformatics of endometrial disease (Supervisors: Hapangama, Vasieva), endometrial stem cells and endometrial biology (supervisor: Hapangama), telomere biology in endometriosis & endometrial cancer (supervisor: Hapangama).