Unravelling the nature of hair: How protein composition and structure responds to damage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Biomedical Science


The use of hair treatments is common across many countries in the world. These can involve a reactive chemical treatment in order to modify hair proteins (keratins) but are often detrimental to hair structure and composition. Restorative proteins and protein hydrolysates from many sources are frequently added to hair care formulations as they have been proven to penetrate into the hair's cortex and in some cases have been shown to modify the physical and even moisture binding properties of hair.

However, surprisingly little information is available regarding the protein composition of hair and it is not known to any degree of certainty which proteins are damaged or lost from hair as a consequence of chemical treatments and if these can be replaced by similar, or identical proteins to restore the properties of the hair. The successful candidate will get the opportunity to explore this exciting area by addressing a fundamental gap in our knowledge and through our industrial partner have the potential to make a real world impact.

The candidate will be developed by a becoming a team-member of a international, world leading research groups, where both technical training and soft skills will be provided and tailored to their background and experience. The project will use state of the art mass spectrometry-based proteomics to characterise the protein composition of hair and determine which that are lost or modified due to the use of damaging treatments. This will be combined with state of the art single fibre mechanical testing and morphological analysis to relate structure to function. Subsequently complementary restorative proteins and protein hydrolysates will be analysed and their sequences compared to those found within the hair before applying them to damaged hair and determining if they can restore natural functions .


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/S506849/1 01/10/2018 13/05/2024
2457888 Studentship BB/S506849/1 28/09/2020 31/03/2024 Ella Hudson