Molecular biosciences

Research in the Molecular Biosciences cluster encompasses a broad range of investigations into the molecular mechanisms underpinning ageing, health, disease, injury and rehabilitation using state-of-the-art technology.

We study the genetic, cellular and molecular processes that govern human ageing, diseased states, inflammation and exercise performance, with a view to improving the health and wellbeing of the population.

Our researchers specialise in developing novel experimental systems and models for designing interventions (exercise, nutritional, pharmaceutical) in the prevention and adjunct treatment of age-related disease, injury and other associated co-morbidities.

Our academic staff are happy to discuss research collaboration, as well as research studentships and self-funded PhDs. To find out more about academics working in this research area, please click on the 'People' tab below.


Our current research specialisms include:

  • Cutting edge bioengineering of functional musculoskeletal tissue constructs allowing investigation of the biological processes that underpin the musculoskeletal conditions that afflict society (Prof Mark Lewis)
  • Genetic epidemiological analyses of diseased states among native and migrant populations (Dr Sarabjit Mastana)
  • Mass spectrometry-based biomarker measurements for clinical applications, sports anti-doping analyses, and biomonitoring of exercise performance/fatigue (Dr Liam Heaney)
  • Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and exercise in tumourigenesis (Dr Liz Akam)
  • 3D multicellular model of breast cancer and exercise (Dr Mhairi Morris)
  • Extracellular vesicles and stem cells in musculoskeletal regeneration (Dr Owen Davies)
  • Development of bioengineered models that allow investigation of musculoskeletal health during physiological interventions relating to exercise, injury, disease and rehabilitation (Dr Andrew Capel)
  • Cellular stress in ageing and metabolic diseases. (Dr Neil Martin)

Grant funding

  • RANK prize
  • Academy of Medical Sciences
  • MRC
  • British Swimming
  • Les Mills International
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • Partnership for Clean Competition
  • German Academic Exchange Service
  • NC3Rs
  • Dr Hadwen Trust
  • Waters Corporation
  • UK Anti-doping
  • Redistributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network
  • Rosetrees Trust
  • National Rehabilitation Centre
  • Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative
  • ARUK

Real-world impact

Here are some examples of where our research has had an impact:

  • Bioengineering the Musculoskeletal System – During investigation of musculoskeletal injuries occurring as a result of high levels of trauma, such as those resulting from military/combat environments, soft tissue is observed to continually degrade even once treated. Our research team has developed a laboratory grown soft tissue model of traumatic injury in humans.
  • Pioneering next-generation therapeutics – Our researchers are investigating the potential role that cell derived nanoparticles – called extracellular vesicles (EVs) – could play in further enhancing regenerative medicine.
  • Novel 3D model provides new insight into how our body’s stem cells interact with breast cancer cells – Under the guidance of Dr Mhairi Morris and Dr Liz Akam, an expert in hMSCs, Doctoral Researcher Mj Brown developed a 3D model that allowed her to explore the relationship between hMSCs and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Her research found that hMSCs dramatically reduce the invasiveness of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells.
  • Exercise improves physical and mental side effects of breast cancer treatments – The research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, looks at the effects of resistance and endurance exercises on patients undergoing post-surgery treatment known as ‘adjuvant therapy’. The researchers found that combined resistance and endurance exercise interventions are beneficial to cardiorespiratory fitness, depression, muscular endurance, muscular strength, quality of life, and social functioning.
  • Support for an online wellbeing resource for those with kidney disease – Our academics have produced an educational video on ‘keeping moving to keep your immune cells happy’, in support of an online wellbeing platform, launched by Kidney Research UK, for patients at all stages of kidney disease.


If you would like to collaborate with our researchers, engage in consultancy or discuss potential PhD projects, please contact them using the information on their staff profile.

Our academic staff

  • Dr Elizabeth Akam – Utility of exercise as a biochemical and genetic modulator of health and lifespan.
  • Dr Sarah Andrews – engineering and characterisation of 3D tissue models of skeletal muscle.
  • Professor Lettie Bishop – Impact of physical activity on immunity, chronic inflammation and chronic inflammatory disease risk.
  • Dr Andrew Capel – Investigating the role of exercise on injury, disease and regeneration within bioengineered musculoskeletal tissues.
  • Kerry Chaplin – Using 3D printing, tissue engineering and finite element modelling in the development of bioengineered models of the musculoskeletal system.
  • Dr Owen Davies – Musculoskeletal regeneration and the role and therapeutic application of cell-derived nanoparticles (extracellular vesicles) in this process.
  • Dr Hannah Dugdale – Understanding muscle disease pathologies and the contribution myoblast fusion plays in exacerbating and even causing the pathophenotype.
  • Dr Antonis Giannopoulos – Investigating tissue engineered skeletal muscle, focussing particularly on the mechanisms of skeletal muscle injury and regeneration.
  • Dr Liam Heaney – The application of mass spectrometry-based techniques for measurement of blood and urine biomarkers.
  • Dr Aveen Jalal – Engineering an enhanced vesicle system for co-ordinated fracture repair.
  • Professor Mark Lewis – A cell and molecular biologist with over 25 years of experience developing in vitro 3D models of functional bioengineered musculoskeletal tissues.
  • Dr Neil Martin – Interactions between ageing, nutrition and exercise and the effects on cell metabolism, particularly in skeletal muscle.
  • Dr Sarabjit Mastana – Human Genomic Studies particularly focusing on genetic epidemiological analyses of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Hypertension and Osteoporosis among native and migrant populations.
  • Dr Mhairi Morris – The role of the viral oncoprotein in transforming cells in the tumour microenvironment and the development of a novel 3D system for investigating this phenomenon, the role of mesenchymal stem cells. (MSCs) in contributing to cancer cell invasion, and the development of a novel 3D model system for measuring the effects of “exercised” skeletal muscle tissue on tumour cell invasiveness.
  • José Oliveira-Rodrigues – Investigating the mechanism of exercise induced multi-tissue cross-talk, on a project that will model skeletal muscle biology within bioengineered tissues, inducing exercise via mechanical and electrical loading.
  • Soraya Williams – Defining and understanding the role of stem cell derived extracellular vesicles, in order to aid development of a novel cell-free product for applications in soft tissue regeneration.
  • Professor Patrick Wheeler – Medical management of musculoskeletal disease, particularly tendinopathy.

Current PhD projects

Our doctoral researchers (PhDs)

  • Genevieve (Evie) Anghileri – Extracellular vesicles in skeletal communication, development and regeneration.
  • Vladimir Belhac – The role of lysosomal metabolic profile on amino acid sensing and persistent mTORC1 signalling in aged skeletal muscle.
  • Marie Juliet Brown – The effects of physical activity (PA) on the mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-driven biochemical modulation of tumour metastasis.
  • Maria Fernandez Rhodes – Deciphering molecular crosstalk in the musculoskeletal system: vesicle-mediated communication and its impact on bone health.
  • Malik Hamrouni – The effect of exercise on immune cell movement towards chemokines released from adipose tissue.
  • Alicia Keenan – A multi-omic approach to identifying biomarkers of tissue development.
  • Maria Mendoza Hidalgo – Development of 3D cell culture models of the human mechanosensory-motor feedback loop of neuromuscular proprioception.
  • Kerry Rosenthal – The development of a quantitative statistical analysis of VOC profiling: using bacteria for Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) biomarker detection as a unique research design tool.
  • Malika Singh – Developing a bioinspired drug delivery system to accelerate musculoskeletal regeneration.

To find out more about PhD opportunities in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, visit our Postgraduate research webpages.

Research spotlight: Pioneering next-generation therapeutics

Our researchers are investigating the potential role that cell derived nanoparticles – called extracellular vesicles (EVs) – could play in further enhancing regenerative medicine.


Find out more