Self-funded PhD opportunities

Developing novel approaches to muscle disease – learning from embryonic muscle stem cells

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Susanne Dietrich

Skeletal muscle allows us to move and live an independent life style. Muscle can regenerate from in-built muscle stem cells, and most of the time, is a trouble-free organ. In muscle disease such as muscular dystrophies, or when large portions of muscle are lost in an accident, regeneration fails. Therefore, efforts are being made to develop muscle stem cells for transplantation into a patient.

Adult muscle stem cells prefer a quiescent state and do not grow well in culture. Yet they are derived from embryonic muscle stem cells which are very active cells, delivering large muscle masses and adult muscle stem cells in a short period of time. This project aims to understand the properties of embryonic muscle stem cells to establish, whether cells considered for therapy should be made more embryo-like.

Muscle and muscle stem cell development is the same in mammals and birds. In this project, we will use the chicken embryo in the egg as a model, and challenge embryonic muscle stem cells with a variety of molecular constructs to explore, how well their stem cell state is protected. We also will perform RNAseq experiments to establish the molecular signature of the embryonic muscle stem cells and we will perform functional tests for candidate regulatory genes.

The projects combines a variety of approaches in cell, molecular and developmental biology, including construct design, in ovo electroporation, in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, RNAseq experiments and bioinformatics.

In addition you will have access to a skills development program run by the university’s Graduate School. The experimental and analytical skills developed during this project will prepare the student well for a future career in academia or industry.

Research Group Web Site: 

Supervisor(s): Dr Susanne Dietrich (School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences)

Funding Status: Self funded - University fees (currently, £13,100 for International Students and £4,052 for Home and EU students)

Search terms: Cell Biology / Development, Genetics, Molecular Biology; Stem cells, muscle, muscle stem cells, chicken embryo

How to Apply: To make an enquiry, please contact

To apply, please use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Postgraduate Research’ heading on the following webpages:

When applying please note the project code PHBM3551017