Colin Farquharson


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Two projects - see and the Roslin website

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Personal profile



1981 BSc (Hons),  Biology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

1989 PhD,  Dept of Medicine, University of Aberdeen

Current Research Interests

Identification of the cell and molecular mechanisms responsible for bone growth, development and mineralisation in health and disease.  

Research Interests


My research programme is focused on the fundamental/translational mechanisms underpinning bone growth, development and mineralisation.  This work is/has been supported by grants from BBSRC, MRC, Medical Research Scotland, Arthritis Research UK, RoseTrees Trust, CSO Duchenne Pareny Project and Industry. My research interests are inter-related  and whilst mostly fundamental in nature translate into the medical and veterinary arena. To complete my studies I have created novel mouse models and organ culture techniques to address my research questions.

Examples of ongoing research interests

  • Defining the mechanisms of skeletal biomineralisation has been a long standing interest.  I discovered a bone-specific phosphatase, PHOSPHO1, and together with colleagues at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, San Diego (Professor Jose Luis Millan) we substantiated its non-redundant functional role in bone mineralisation; genetic PHOSPHO1 ablation results in hypomineralised, functionally impaired skeletons with bowing of bones and spontaneous fracture.  Co-ablation of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) produces complete lack of skeletal mineralisation. This work is actively ongoing producing novel insights into the ability of phosphatases (PHOSPHO1 and ALP) to regulate skeletal mineralisation.
  • Several previous reports have suggested an association between PHOSPHO1 expression in disorders of altered energy metabolism such as obesity and diabetes.  Data from a recent published study (Suchacki et al BMC Biology 2020) is both supportive of such an association but also provides insight into the mechanisms by which PHOSPHO1 may contribute to the regulation of energy metabolism, inclusive of insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance and fat metabolism. The identification of PHOSPHO1 in the role of energy metabolism in both the human and mouse offers the potential to manipulate key targets of the PHOSPHO1 pathway to improve metabolic health.

  • In another project, my group has proven a critical role for SOCS2 in regulating epiphyseal (growth plate) chondrocyte and osteoblast responses to growth hormone. SOCS2 suppresses STAT phosphorylation to inhibit linear growth and bone accretion and the absence of SOCS2 protects against bone loss typical of inflammatory bowel disease. These data are consistent with the premise that increased osteoblast SOCS2 expression represents a critical mediator through which pro-inflammatory cytokines inhibit GH signalling and decrease osteoblast function and bone accrual. This work is done in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Glasgow (Professor Faisal Ahmed).
  • Other joint studies funded by the MRC investigated the growth phenotype of various mouse models of Duchenes Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).  The study will further determine how bone anabolic agents (GH and IGF-1) can prevent the osteopenia and growth disorders that is prevalent in this condition.  Further studies funded by Duchenne Parent Project are investigating the the ability of denosumab to prevent skeeltal fraility in DMD mouse models challenged by glucocorticoids.  These latter studies are in collaboration with Drs Wong (Glasgow), Joseph (Glasgow) and Stephen (Edinburgh and Prof Frenette (Quebec).
  • In collaboration with colleagues at the RVC (Professor Andy Pitsillides) and the University of Sheffield (Dr Dave Buttle), we have shown that matrix mineralisation drives osteocyte formation and E11 (podoplanin) expression and that stabilisation of E11 protein (by cysteine protease inhibitors) is essential for the acquisition of the osteocyte morphology. Further work funded by Arthritis Research UK has allowed us to generate bone specific E11 deficient mice and extend these studies to investigate the role of E11 during subchondral bone thickening and the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis.
  • In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oxford (Professor Kim Midwood) and Axis-Shield Diagnostics, Dundee (Dr Jeff Brady) and funded by Medical Research Scotland we are developing assays to assess the clinical utility of tenascin-C (TNC) in inflammatory diseases. Studying a colitis animal model in TNC Knockout mice we have also sjown that TNC is involved in the aetiology of inflammatory bowel disease




Research students

Current PhD students (primary supervisor)

Scott Dillon (2016 - 2020)

Shung-Neng (Lewis) - Hsu (2017-2021)

Current PhD students (co-supervisor)

Erika Abbonbati (2014-2021) 

Maisarah Maiden  (2018- present)

Beartriz Larraz  (2018-present)

David Hughes (2018 – present)

Julia Falc (2020 - present)

Mohammed Algarni  (2020-present)

Graduated PhD students

Beverley Williams (2000)

Diane Murray (2005)

Scott Roberts (2007)

Helen Owen (2008)

Matt Prideaux (2010)

Chloe Pass (2011)

Mohamad Loqman (2011)

Dongxing Zhu (2012)

Phil Newton (2012)

Katherine Staines (2014)

Ross Dobie (2015)

Karla Oldknow (2015)

Dean Houston (2016)

Seungmee Li (2017)

Cui (Lucy) Lin (2017)

Ekele Ikpegbu (2018)

James Ozanne (2019)

Fiona Roberts (2020)

Claire Wood (2020)


Graduated MD students

Talat Mushtaq (2005)

Rebecca Perry (2009)


Undergraduate Teaching

University of Edinburgh BVM&S Animal Body 1 lectures and histology practicals

This includes lectures on 1) Cell Cycle 2) Cell Divison 3) Cell Adhesion 4) Extracellar proteins 5) Bone.

Member of BVM&S AB1 exam Board

Postgraduate Teaching

Currently supervise 8 PhD students as primary or co-supervisor

Have succesfully supervised  19 PhD and 2 MD students to completion

Vacation student supervisor

I regularly supevise BVM&S and Honour student projects (approx 6-10 weeks duration)




Colin Farquharson graduated from Strathclyde University before completing his PhD within the Department of Medicine at Aberdeen University in 1989. Whilst still in Aberdeen then later at The Roslin Institute he developed his career long interest in skeletal biology whilst completing post-doctoral positions at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen and Roslin Institute, Edinburgh. In 1998 he became a Principal Investigator at the Roslin Institute and received Individual Merit Promotion (IMP3) in 2007. This coincided with Colin’s transfer to the R(D)SVS within the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. He was awarded a personal chair in Skeletal Biology in 2010.  He currently leads the Skeletal Biology Research Group within the Division of Functional genomics & Developmental at the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) where he completes fundamental/translational studies to determine the cell and molecular pathways responsible for bone growth, development and mineralisation.  For most of his studies me uses mouse models of disease.

In addition to his scientific research, Colin is Director of Post-Graduate Research within R(D)SVS.   He is Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Endocrinology & Journal of Molecular Endocrinology as well as a member of the Editorial Board for  Calcified Tissue International. He is also Deputy Chair: The Veterinary Advisory Committee of the Horse Race Betting Levy Board (HBLB). 

He is a recent past Secretary of the Bone Research Society (2007-2010) and a past member of the BBSRC Training and Awards Committee (2007-2009) and ARUK Fellowship and Implementation Committee (2014-2016). 

He has published >160 peer reviewed publications and a Google Scholar H index of 49 (Citations ~6895).

Administrative Roles

Current Postgraduate Responsibilities

• 2012-present.  CMVM Researcher Experience Committee.

• 2017- present. RDSVS Director of Postgraduate Research.

• 2017- present. RDSVS School Management Group.

• 2017- present. RDSVS Postgraduate Taught Programmes Committee.

• 2017- present. RDSVS Postgraduate Support and Advisory Committee.

• 2017- present. RDSVS Postgraduate Staff Student Liaison Committee.

• 2017- present. RDSVS Clinical Training Scholarship Committee.

• 2017- present. CMVM Board of Examiners.

• 2020 – present. R(D)SVS COVID19 task force 

• 2020-present R(D)SVS COVID ARG Research Group 

• 2020 – present University of Edinburgh PhD Scholarship short life working group 

• 2020 – present, University of Edinburgh Doctoral College 


Current Committee Membership, Editoral responsibilities

2015-present - Deputy Chair: The Veterinary Advisory Committee of the Horse Race Betting Levy Board (HBLB) and formerly committee member (2013-2015).

2018-present - Co-Editor-in-Chief: Journal of Endocrinology and Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 

2010-present - Member: Editorial Board of Calcified Tissue International.

2009-present - Member: European Calcified Tissue Society (ECTS) - Grant Reviews Panel. 





Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Aberdeen

Award Date: 1 Jan 1988

Bachelor of Science, University of Strathclyde

Award Date: 1 Jan 1981

External positions

Post-doctoral Scientist Band 5 1992 - 1996, Project Leader Band 5 1997 - 2000, AFRC ABRO-IAPGR Edinburgh


Scientific Officer Band 7 1982 - 1988, Post-doctoral Scientist Band 6 1989 - 1991, Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen



  • Q Science (General)
  • Bone metabolism
  • bone growth
  • growth plate
  • mineralisation
  • endocrine control
  • cartilage
  • skeleton
  • chondrocyte
  • osteoblast
  • osteocyte
  • phospho1
  • alkaline phosphatase


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