University of Manchester

The impact of age, ethnicity and UVR exposure on the barrier function of human skin

Deadline: Open all year round
Self Funded

Project Description

Human skin provides a crucial barrier to prevent excessive water loss from the body and to protect against environmental insults, notably ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in sunlight. Epidermal barrier function is maintained by tight junction (TJ) complexes and the hydrophobic, lipid rich stratum corneum. Disruption of barrier function is associated with inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. The barrier function of skin declines with age and is influenced by UVR exposure but the impact of ethnicity on these is unknown.

Previous work within the Centre for Dermatology Research at Manchester has shown that epidermal morphology and dermal composition are determined by geographical ancestry and that changes in skin related to ageing and the effect of UVR exposure differ between individuals of different ethnicity. The aim of this project is to examine how ethnicity influences components and function of the skin barrier. Specifically, this project will explore how expression of key components of the skin barrier (e.g. tight junction proteins) differ between individuals of different ethnicity and how these are influenced by ageing and UVR exposure. Findings will add to our understanding of skin biology and may have implications for public health messaging on sunlight exposure and photoprotection, and for the treatment/management of skin conditions where barrier function is compromised.

The successful candidate will join the Centre for Dermatological Research within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester, and will benefit from access to a wide range of expertise and excellent research facilities

Funding Information

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has Band 3 tuition fees. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website here.

Eligibility Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant biological science. A Masters qualification in a similar area would be an advantage. Candidates should be highly motivated and have an interest in human investigative dermatology. Candidates with experience in this area are encouraged to apply.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Application Process

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website. Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Biochemistry.


Langton AK, Hann M, Costello P, Halai P, Sisto Alessi César S, Lien-Lun Chien A, Kang S, Griffiths CEM, Sherratt MJ, Watson REB. Heterogeneity of fibrillin-rich microfibrils extracted from human skin of diverse ethnicity. J Anat 2020;237:478-86.

Langton AK, Hann M, Costello P, Halai P, Griffiths CEM, Sherratt MJ, Watson REB. Remodelling of fibrillin-rich microfibrils by solar-simulated radiation: impact of skin ethnicity. Photochem Photobiol Sci 2020;19:1160-7.

Shih BB, Farrar MD, Vail A, Allan D, Chao M-R, Hu C-W, Jones GD, Cooke MS, Rhodes LE. Influence of skin melanisation and ultraviolet radiation on biomarkers of systemic oxidative stress. Free Rad Biol Med 2020;160:40-6.

Langton AK, Alessi S, Hann M, Chien AL, Kang S, Griffiths CEM, Watson REB. Aging in skin of color: disruption to elastic fiber organization is detrimental to skin’s biomechanical function. J Invest Dermatol 2019;139:779-88.

Shih BB, Farrar M, Cooke MS, Osman JE, Langton AK, Kift R, Webb AR, Berry JL, Watson REB, Vail A, De Gruijl FR, Rhodes LE. Fractional sunburn threshold UVR doses generate equivalent vitamin D and DNA damage in skin types I-VI, but with epidermal DNA damage gradient correlated to skin darkness. J Invest Dermatol 2018;138;2244-52.

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