Colin Farquharson


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

1989 PhD,  Dept of Medicine, University of Aberdeen

Current Research Interests

Identification of the cell, molecular and endocrine 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, LIfeArc Duchenne Parent 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 PHOSPHO1 - a bone-specific phosphatase,  and established its non-redundant functional role in bone mineralisation. Genetic ablation of PHOSPHO1 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.

  • Other joint studies funded by the MRC investigated the growth phenotype of various mouse models of Duchenes Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).  The study determined if bone anabolic agents (GH and IGF-1) could prevent the osteopenia and growth disorders that is prevalent in this condition.  Further studies funded by Duchenne Parent Project and LifeARC/CSO are currently investigating the the ability of anti-RANKL 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).

  • Ongoing studies are investigating the skeletal problems associated with chronic kidney disease - metabolic bone disease (CKD-MBD).  These are preclinical studies using adenine induced CKD-MBD

Research students

Current PhD students (primary supervisor)

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

Charlotte Clews (2021-present)

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)

Scott Dillon (2021)

 Graduated MScR studnets

Brandon Shek (2021)

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  20 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 in Roslin 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 his 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 Genetics and Development at the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) where he completes fundamental/translational studies to determine the genes and pathways responsible for bone and cartilage growth, development and mineralisation.

In addition to his scientific research, he is Director of postgraduate research within R(D)SVS.  He is Co-editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Endocrinology and Journal of Molecular Endocrinology as well as a member of the Editorial Board  of 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 and a past member of the BBSRC Training and Awards Committee and ARUK Fellowship and Implementation Committee. 

He has published >160 peer reviewed publications and an H index of 51 (Citations ~7300).

Administrative Roles

 Management Roles

•  RDSVS School Management Group

•  The Roslin Institute Science Management Group

•  RDSVS Campus Research Group

•  RDSVS Covid19 Task Force

 Current Postgraduate Roles and Committees

•  RDSVS Director of Postgraduate Research

• CMVM Board of Examiners 

•  University of Edinburgh Doctoral College

•  CMVM Scholarship Allocation Group

•  RDSVS Postgraduate Taught Programmes Committee 

• RDSVS Postgraduate Support and Advisory Committee 

• RDSVS Postgraduate Staff Student Liaison Committee 

• RDSVS Clinical Training Scholarship Committee 

• CMVM Researcher Experience Committee 

 Undergraduate Roles and Committees

• BVM&S Animal Body 1 course Exam Board Member.

 External Current Committee Membership & Editoral responsibilities

• Deputy Chair: The Veterinary Advisory Committee of the Horse Race Betting Levy Board (HBLB)

• Co-editor-in-Chief: Journal of Endocrinology and Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 

• Member: Editorial Board of Calcified Tissue International

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), The effects of copper deficiency on the skleton and cardiovascular system, 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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