Role of the Wnt-non canonical pathways in the modulation of lipid metabolism in the articular cartilage and osteoarthritis

The project aims to characterise molecular mechanisms involved in the degradation of the articular cartilage in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis

Application deadline
Funding source
Funding will be provided through the Springboard Award, (grant code RC7537 ~96K) and the Longhurst Legacy.
Funding information

The studentship will cover stipend, tuition and bench fees for both British and European students. Overseas students are welcome to apply, however, overseas tuition fees will not be covered.  Funding will be provided through the Springboard Award.


The University is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in Spring 2019 (April or July entry points).

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a major musculoskeletal condition affecting 240 million people worldwide for which no cure exists other than palliative care and surgical joint replacement. Progressive and irreversible articular cartilage degradation is one of the hallmarks of the disease. The development of novel therapeutics relies on the discovery of the molecular pathways maintaining cartilage integrity and capable of triggering a regenerative response in pathological conditions.

Our recent data showed that a tight balance between the Wnt/β-catenin dependent and independent pathways is required to preserve cartilage health (Nalesso et al, Journal of Cell Biology 2011 IF 9.8, Nalesso et al., Annals of Rheumatic Diseases 2017, IF 12). Nonetheless the understanding of the function of the non-canonical branches in the tissue is still poor. This will be the focus of this studentship. You will investigate the role of a particular branch of the non-canonical signalling in lipid synthesis and metabolism and its impact on cartilage cell differentiation, mitochondrial function and cell membrane composition and permeability.

You will acquire skills in cell and molecular biology techniques, as well as mass spectrometry applied to lipidomic analysis.

The project will be performed in Dr Giovanna Nalesso’s laboratory at the University of Surrey. You will also perform experiments aimed to investigate the role of the non–canonical pathway on mitochondrial activity in Dr Michelangelo Campanella's laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College in London. Mass-spec lipidomic analysis will be done in collaboration with Dr Barbara Fielding at the University of Surrey.

It is anticipated that this project will result in academic publications, intellectual property and translational potential. Therefore we are looking for a candidate that is highly motivated to conduct world-leading research.


Nalesso et al., J Cell Biol. 2011, 193(3):551-64. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201011051.

Nalesso et al., Ann Rheum Dis. 2017, 76(1):218-226. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-208577.

Eligibility criteria

Essential requirements:

  • First class honours degree (2:1 or above) or international equivalent degree in a relevant scientific or biomedical discipline, acquired or to be acquired before the beginning of the PhD
  • You are required to hold an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences or a related subject
  • Self-driven, enthusiastic and good communicator
  • Excellent organisational skills
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

Desirable requirements:

  • Experience in molecular biology and/or in-vitro mammalian cell culture
  • Masters degree or international equivalent (acquired or to be obtained before the beginning of the PhD).

Language requirements:

EU and international students’ ability of speaking English proficiently will be assessed during the interview.

Nonetheless the possession of a language certificate (overall IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent) would be desirable.

How to apply

Applications can be made through the School of Veterinary Medicine PhD applications portal (click on the “Apply” tab and then select the Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD, full-time October 2019. The project will nonetheless start no later than July 2019). Please state the project title and supervisor clearly on the “research proposal” part of the application.  Applicants are invited to contact Dr Nalesso to discuss the project informally prior to making an application.

Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD

Application deadline

Contact details

Giovanna Nalesso
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