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PhD Studentship: Pregnancy Vitamin D Supplementation and Offspring Musculoskeletal Health: Deepening the Understanding of How to Deliver Personalised Medicine

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,154 per year
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 6th December 2023
Closes: 12th February 2024
 

Lead Institute / Faculty: Medicine 

Main Supervisor: Professor Nicholas C Harvey 

Other members of the supervisory team: Dr Rebecca Moon

Duration of the award: Three years full-time

Start date: 
23rd September 2024 

Project description:

Evidence suggests that pregnancy vitamin D supplementation has benefits for maternal and offspring health. This project will use novel and existing data (blood biomarker, genetic, epigenetic, detailed clinical assessments of bone density and microarchitecture) to establish methods of personalising pregnancy vitamin D supplementation to optimise offspring musculoskeletal development.  

The MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre (University of Southampton) is a world-leading research centre for musculoskeletal lifecourse epidemiology and early life programming. Using the internationally unique MAVIDOS randomised controlled trial, we have demonstrated that pregnancy vitamin D supplementation increases offspring bone mass at age 4 years. Detailed assessment of the children at 6-7 years including dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) and high resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT; virtual bone biopsy) has been undertaken.  In the UK, it is recommended that all women take vitamin D during pregnancy, but routine use of supplementation is low.  Personalised approaches to medicine include both establishing characteristics which may direct dose stratification and understanding current barriers to supplementation use. The specific aims of this project will be to (1) assess the effect of pregnancy vitamin D supplementation on growth in utero and during early childhood, and on bone microarchitecture at 6-7 years of age (2) investigate whether these relationships are modified by clinical, genetic or epigenetic factors (3) establish characteristics and barriers associated with the uptake of vitamin D supplementation among pregnant women that may inform targeted approaches to public health messages. 

This project will be of interest to candidates from a wide range of backgrounds including, but not limited to, biomedical sciences, public health, statistics, clinical medicine and allied health professionals. The project will both capitalise on existing data and allow the candidate to develop a new study to understand current pregnancy supplementation use. The candidate will gain skills in study design and execution, statistical methods, scientific writing, and presentation. They will develop specific understanding of musculoskeletal phenotypic methods such as DXA and HRpQCT, together with the knowledge and skills necessary to incorporate the existing genetic and epigenetic markers into the analyses. 

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

  • A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters.

Funding information:

Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK applicants. This PhD studentship is funded for 3 years of fees by NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. Amount of stipend £18,154.00 plus fees at UK residency rate only.

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University's online application form, which you can find at

https://student-selfservice.soton.ac.uk/BNNRPROD/bzsksrch.P_Login?pos=7209&majr=7209&term=202425 

You should enter as your proposed supervisor as Professor Nicholas C Harvey. To support your application, provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date). 

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Dr Rebecca Moon (rm@mrc.soton.ac.uk). 

Closing date: 12th February 2024

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