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Scientist for PhD studentship

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Glyco-microbubbles – a new strategy for biofilm imaging and destruction

Uropathogenic E. coli are responsible for 85% of urinary tract infections. Adhesins on the bacteria bind to carbohydrates on the bladder surface creating biofilms that lead to persistent infections.[1] Once embedded in biofilms, the bacteria become 100–1000-fold less susceptible to antibiotics, increasing the probability of recurrent infection and genetically resistant strains emerging as a result of sub-lethal drug doses. If biofilms were prevented/dispersed, the bacteria would be more susceptible to standard therapies.
In this project we will develop a new method for imaging and disrupting biofilms based on microbubbles: lipid-coated gas bubbles commonly used for contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging.[2] You will make carbohydrate-coated microbubbles that can bind to the adhesins on the surface of uropathogenic E. coli and a range of other pathogenic bacteria. The glyco-microbubbles will be targeted to biofilms for enhanced ultrasound imaging and biofilm disruption.[3]
The project will be very interdisciplinary and you will learn a broad range of techniques that combine the expertise of the supervisory team in clinical microbiology (Dr Jon Sandoe);[4] synthetic chemistry and biophysical assays of protein-carbohydrate interactions (Dr Bruce Turnbull);[5] and microbubble fabrication and characterization (Prof Steve Evans).[2-3] You will learn to synthesise simple ligands for bacterial adhesins. The ligands will then be incorporated into microbubbles using state of the art microfluidic technologies before characterisation of their interactions and activity against clinically-relevant bacterial biofilms.
  • A. Bernardi, J. Jiménez-Barbero, A. Casnati, C. De Castro, T. Darbre, F. Fieschi, J. Finne, H. Funken, K.-E. Jaeger, M. Lahmann, T. K. Lindhorst, M. Marradi, P. Messner, A. Molinaro, P. V. Murphy, C. Nativi, S. Oscarson, S. Penadés, F. Peri, R. J. Pieters, O. Renaudet, J.-L. Reymond, B. Richichi, J. Rojo, F. Sansone, C. Schäffer, W. B. Turnbull, T. Velasco-Torrijos, S. Vidal, S. Vincent, T. Wennekes, H. Zuilhof and A. Imberty, Multivalent glycoconjugates as anti-pathogenic agents. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2013, 42, 4709-4727.
  • Abou-Saleh, R. H.; Swain, M.; Evans, S. D.; Thomson, N. H. Poly(Ethylene Glycol) Lipid-Shelled Microbubbles: Abundance, Stability, and Mechanical Properties. Langmuir 2014, 30, 5557–5563.
  • Peyman, S. A.; Abou-Saleh, R. H.; McLaughlan, J. R.; Ingram, N.; Johnson, B. R. G.; Critchley, K.; Freear, S.; Evans, J. A.; Markham, A. F.; Coletta, P. L.; Evans, S. D. Expanding 3D Geometry for Enhanced on-Chip Microbubble Production and Single Step Formation of Liposome Modified Microbubbles. Lab Chip 2012, 12, 4544–4552.
  • Kanaa M, Wright MJ, Akbani H, Laboi P, Bhandari S, Sandoe JA. Cathasept line lock and microbial colonization of tunneled hemodialysis catheters: A multicenter randomized controlled trial. American journal of kidney diseases : the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation. 2015, 66, 1015-1023
  • T. R. Branson, T. E. McAllister, J. Garcia-Hartjes, M. A. Fascione, J. F. Ross, S. L. Warriner, T. Wennekes, H. Zuilhof and W. B. Turnbull, A protein-based pentavalent inhibitor of the cholera toxin B-subunit, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 8323-8327. 

Contact detail

How to apply:
Applications should be made through the Faculty of Medicine.

Deadline for applications is 26 February 2016

Send application to
Please contact Dr. Bruce Turnbull (W.B.Turnbull@leeds.ac.uk) for further details about this opportunity.

Job profile

Working hours
Contract duration
Type of job
PhD Project
Work experience
job experience is not required
United Kingdom
Working place
LS2 9JT Leeds, UK
Area of expertise
Chemistry, Human medicine, Biology & Life Sciences, Physics, Medical Engineering