Edinburgh Research Explorer

Colin Farquharson

Personal Chair of Skeletal Biology

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Phone: 00 44 (0)131 651 9176Fax: 00 44 (0)131 651 9105

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

No Projects available at this time

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Aberdeen
The effects of copper deficiency on the skleton and cardiovascular system
Bachelor of Science, University of Strathclyde



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

1989 PhD,  Dept of Medicine, University of Aberdeen

Current Research Interests

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

Research Interests


My research programme is focused on the fundamental/translational mechanisms underpinning bone growth and development with a specific focus on the genetic and endocrine control of skeletal growth, development and mineralisation.  This work is/has been supported by grants from BBSRC, MRC, Medical Research Scotland, Arthritis Research UK 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.
  • 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 with Professor Ahmed, funded by the MRC are investigating the bone and 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.
  • 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 in inflammatory diseases. 




Research students

Current PhD students (primary supervisor)

Ekele Ikpegbu (2015-2018)

James Ozanne (2015-2019)

Claire Wood (2016 - 2020)

Scott Dillon (2016 - 2020)

Current PhD students (co-supervisor)

Seungmee Li (2014-2017)

Cui (Lucy) Lin (2013-2017)

Erika Abbonbati (2014-2019) 

Fiona Roberts (2016 - 2020)

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)

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  13 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 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 Developmental Biology at the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) where he completes fundamental studies to determine the genes and pathways responsible for bone and cartilage growth, development and mineralisation.

In addition to his scientific research, Colin is Dean of Post-Graduate Research within R(D)SVS and overseas both PGR and PGT students within the school. He is Deputy Editor for the Journal of Endocrinology/Journal of Molecular Endocrinology as well as a member of the Editorial Boards for Cell Biochemistry and Function and 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 >140 peer reviewed publications and an H index: WoS 33 (Citations ~ 2945), Google Scholar 40 (Citations ~4374). https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=JysKPb0AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao

Administrative Roles

Current Postgraduate Responsibilities

• 2017- present. RDSVS Dean of Postgraduate Studies.

• 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.  Global Academy of Agriculture & Food security (Short Life Working Group).

• 2017- present. CMVM Board of Examiners.

• 2012-present.  CMVM Postgraduate Researcher Experience Committee.

• 2011-present.  BVM&S Animal Body 1 course Exam Board Member.

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).

2015-present - Co-convenor: Society for Endocrinology Bone and Calcium Network Group.

2015-present - Deputy Editor: Journal of Endocrinology and Journal of Molecular Endocrinology (former Senior Editor, 2009 – 2015).

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

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

2008-present - Member: Editorial Board of Cell Biochemistry and Function.




Research activities & awards

  1. Calcified Tissue International (Journal)

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

  2. Journal of Endocrinology (Journal)

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

  3. Cell Biochemistry and Function (Journal)

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

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