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Traumatic Brain Injury and its link to Alzheimer’s disease

This project will be funded by a Medway School of Pharmacy Post Graduate Research Scholarship. Funding will include tuition fees at the Home/EU rate (currently £4,327 per annum) and a stipend at the standard UK Research Councils' rate (currently £15,009).


  1. Dr Romina Vuono (1st Supervisor)
  2. Dr Gurprit Lall (2nd Supervisor)

Applications are invited for a PhD scholarship in the lab of Dr Romina Vuono to study the link between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

TBI is a sudden damage to the brain caused by an external force to the head. Each year, millions worldwide suffer TBI in road accidents, collision sports and falls. Military personnel are also at risk as blast waves can cause brain Injury. Awareness of the longer-term effects of TBI has
increased in recent years with media coverage of repeated head injury in sport leading to behavioural and cognitive problems. Indeed, epidemiological studies refer to TBI as a major environmental risk factor for AD. In addition, extensive tau pathology similar to that found in AD has been described in brains of individuals exposed to repetitive head injury such as boxers and American football players (1). Despite its growing prevalence and association with dementia, TBI is understudied and the underlying mechanisms leading to AD are still unknown. Dr Vuono’s lab uses a multidisciplinary approach (e.g. histopathology, molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, genetics) and cutting-edge technologies to research these mechanisms (2,3). In particular, we focus on investigating whether the neuronal damage produced at the time of the head injury may trigger a sequence of biological processes causing structural changes in the tau protein leading long-term to the formation of the Neurofibrillary Tangles, well-known pathological feature of AD.

Dr Vuono preliminary research, has shown widespread tau oligomeric species (early abnormal tau conformations) - within 48 hours of head injury – in the brain of individuals as young as 26 years old where tau pathology is highly unlikely to be related to normal ageing or prodromal AD. Since a large body of dementia research suggests that oligomers are the most toxic tau species as they can enter and exit neurons and propagate the condition, our findings support the hypothesis that oligomeric tau species produced at the time of the head injury may spread through the brain seeding tau pathological aggregation in a prion-like manner. Thus, the aim of this scholarship is to extend this research to a larger cohort of human TBI brain samples and assess whether the tau oligomers are functional in seeding tau pathology.

Looking onwards, this study may pave the way to understand the molecular mechanisms leading to late-onset AD and open up new therapeutic approaches to prevent it, a crucial goal in dementia research.

The successful candidate will join the lab of Dr Romina Vuono, enthusiastic young investigator with extensive experience in clinical and non-clinical dementia research, high impact studies on tau pathology published in top world scientific journals and passionate in supporting the
scientific career of enthusiastic candidates. The lab is based within the Medway School of Pharmacy (MSoP), equipped with all the laboratory facilities and technologies required for this project (e.g. microscopy, Real-Time PCR, ELISA readers and Odyssey CLx). Beside this, MSoP is a vibrant intellectual environment which will greatly benefit the PhD journey of the candidate.

Finally, this work is supported by a network of world leading scientists within the University of Cambridge. Thus, the candidate will have the unique opportunity to access and work in their labs which will greatly benefit his/her career.

Applications from enthusiastic and highly motivated students are invited. The successful candidate will have a strong background in molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, cell culture, microscopy and image analysis. The ability to work both independently and as part of a team,
coupled with excellent communication, organizational and problem-solving skills are required. High proficiency in spoken and written English is essential. Additional experience in neuroscience, would be an advantage.


  1. McKee AC et al, Acta Neuropathol, 2014
  2. Vuono R et al, Brain, 2015
  3. Vuono R et al, Mov Disord, 2019


Entry requirements: Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject and a Masters (at Merit or above) in Pharmaceutical Science or closely related subject.

The Scholarship is available to both UK and EU nationals and will involve undertaking teaching/demonstrating duties during the period of study. 

Note: Overseas students are welcome to apply but will have to fund the difference between Home/EU and Overseas fees.

Self-funded applicants and those who have access to international scholarship applications, please contact Dr Romina Vuono directly.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

How to apply

To apply please go to https://www.msp.ac.uk/postgraduate/?course_id=785&course_level=postgraduate 

You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (curriculum vitae, transcript of results, two academic references). You are not required to submit a research proposal.


31 March 2020

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