The population increase in overweight and obesity has led to an unaffordable burden of obesity-related diseases, such as T2D, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. The surge in obesity prevalence suggests that change in the environment and subsequent health-related behaviours (HRB) such as physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol intake may be key.
Early life events and HRB may be critical for the development of these diseases by altering programming via epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation. Epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation, enable cells to ‘remember’ and respond to exposures, by influencing gene expression and are established in early-life. DNA methylation could be one mediating mechanism by which early-life events and HRBs influence later-life outcomes. Indeed, evidence suggests methylation at birth can predict childhood obesity. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that specific epigenetic changes may be used to predict disease. This offers the potential for these epigenetic markers to be used as surrogate endpoints of disease, allowing us to assess epigenetic changes in late adolescence/early adulthood before the disease has manifested.
Longitudinal cohort studies collect data at multiple timepoints, allowing for in-depth analyses of the origins and progression of disease and unhealthy ageing. The Gateshead Millennium Study (GMS) has collected robust data on up to 1029 children since birth in 1999-2000, with detailed information at 7y, 9y, 12y, and 15y. A strength of this proposal is that body composition and the key HRBs known to affect health including physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol intake have already been assessed in the cohort at multiple timepoints http://www.findaphd.com/common/clickCount.aspx?theid=70298&type=184&DID=3415&url=http%3a%2f%2fresearch.ncl.ac.uk%2fgms%2f
The current proposal will use a novel approach to determine which critical early lifestyle factors have the potential to influence long term health, assessed through the use of surrogate end-point epigenetic biomarkers. The study will take advantage of the existing longitudinal dataset, whilst adding to the wealth of the GMS through the collection of additional data and biological samples from cohort participants at age 17-18y. Repeat measures of critical HRBs will be taken, along with saliva samples in which disease-predictive DNA methylation marks will be assessed. Historical and newly collected data will be used to investigate the impact of early-life exposures (i.e. socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, objectively measured physical activity) on predictive disease biomarkers. This will help to inform early prevention strategies for public health, and could have implications for the emerging field of personalised medicine through the provision of environmentally-sensitive biomarkers to predict individuals at high risk for disease development. Dr Angela Jones (8 years post-doc with expertise in dietary assessment and Prof Ashley Adamson (PI of GMS) will be 3rd and 4th supervisors.
DiMeN (Discovery Medicine North) DTP studentships are funded for 3.5 years and include the following annual package of financial support over the duration of the studentship:
•A tax-free maintenance grant set at the UK Research Council’s national postgraduate rate
•Full payment of tuition fees at the Home/EU rate
•A research training support grant (RTSG) to support your research studies (managed through the host institution)
•Opportunity to apply to our Flexible Fund to enable you to attend training workshops and visit research groups to advance your skills training.
Successful Home students will receive a full studentship. EU students will be considered for a full studentship or just fee support depending on the excellence of their qualifications and their employment/residency status (http://www.findaphd.com/common/clickCount.aspx?theid=70298&type=184&DID=3415&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.mrc.ac.uk%2fskills-careers%2fstudentships%2fstudentship-guidance%2fstudent-eligibility-requirements%2f
). Overseas students are not eligible to apply.
You should be someone with an outstanding academic track record and can demonstrate your potential for the research project of your choice.
You must hold (or be expected to hold by October 2016) a First or a good 2:1 UK undergraduate degree, a suitable qualification at Masters level or an equivalent degree from a recognised EU institution, in the biosciences or a related area. The multidisciplinary training experience and interdisciplinary nature of some of our projects means that we welcome applications from students with physical science and/or mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills to address the challenges of 21st century bioscience research.
How to apply:
Please carefully read the instructions on how to apply at our website and use the link on the page to apply: http://www.findaphd.com/common/clickCount.aspx?theid=70298&type=184&DID=3415&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.dimen.org.uk%2fhow-to-apply%2fapplication-overview