PhD Studentship - Artificial Metalloproteins as Novel MRI Contrast Agents

University of Birmingham - School of Chemistry

Since MRI’s first clinical applications nearly thirty years ago, MRI has become an essential tool for clinical diagnosis. Image contrast is routinely enhanced by the use of a contrast agent (CA), with the overwhelming majority based on complexes of gadolinium, and more recently manganese.

However, current MRI CAs are limited by their small size (limits relaxivity, MRI efficiency) and inability to interact with biomolecules in a targeted fashion. In contrast, proteins satisfy both of these limitations, and thus, the goal of this project is to replace the ligands associated with traditional MRI CAs, with protein ligands.

Preliminary results have found that gadolinium complexes of miniature coiled coil protein scaffolds, see Figure, display superior MRI contrast capabilities compared to the traditional small molecular complexes currently employed in the clinic. This project will build on these findings, by engineering similar gadonlium (and manganese) sites into small proteins such as the family of knottin proteins, and larger assemblies with appropriate targeting opportunities.

This project builds on a long-term collaboration between the Peacock and Britton groups, bringing together expertise in peptide and protein design, synthesis and characterisation (Peacock) with MRI application and development (Britton). This powerful synergy will offer the student the opportunity to become expert in the broadest range of techniques and skills.

This studentship is competition funded by the BBSRC MIBTP scheme, and interested applicants should follow the procedure described in the link below:

Funding Details

Competition-funded PhD project (UK/EU students only)

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Midlands of England