Systemic sclerosis (SSc), a microvascular autoimmune disease, causes damage to the small blood vessels (microvasculature). Although rare it has the highest mortality of all rheumatological conditions and causes significant morbidity. There is currently no cure. Greater understanding of the disease is necessary; novel techniques that provide biomarkers to elucidate the disease process, allow measurement of disease severity and become outcome measures in clinical trials are required.
The aim of this project is to investigate two non-invasive, ambulatory monitoring techniques; thermography and nailfold capillaroscopy.
Thermography, a technique to measure (skin) temperature, will be used to assess skin blood flow of the hands. Measurement of decreased blood flow (ischaemia) in SSc, due to the microvascular dysfunction, may allow assessment of changes in severity of SSc with time.
Nailfold capillaroscopy is a microscopic technique which allows observation of small blood vessels (capillaries) in the finger. In SSc the structure of the capillaries is characteristically altered, changing with time. Longitudinal home monitoring of these capillaries with time would potentially increase our understanding of how SSc-related changes occur.
Training will be given on working on patient facing studies, the imaging techniques and analysing images. These techniques will then be applied in a cohort of early and later phase SSc patients at baseline and over a period of 18 months in order to assess longitudinal change. Data analysis will be performed to determine the cross sectional and temporal relationships between the parameters from each technique to disease duration and other clinical markers, thereby elucidating the pathogenesis of the condition.
This study may identify new relationships in the pathophysiology of SSc. It is expected that the project will lead to a number of high-profile publications and lay the foundations for the use of multi-modality imaging in future therapeutic trials and, ultimately, in SSc patient care.
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in physics or a suitably related area / subject. Candidates with experience in medical imaging are encouraged to apply.
How To Apply
For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/). Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title.
For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences.
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