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Computational methods to explore the relationship between gut microbes, metabolites and human health

Project Description

Start date: 1st January 2020

Metabolomics and the gut microbiome are intricately involved in susceptibility and potentially monitoring of metabolic diseases. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that metabolites produced by the gut, such as branch chain amino acids, could be responsible for several metabolic conditions including insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity, thus mediating microbial effects on human health. The faecal metabolome allows us to measure these metabolites directly, instead of assaying microbial output indirectly, e.g. by 16S or metagenome sequencing, thus providing a functional readout of the gut microbiome. Indeed, we have recently shown that while the faecal metabolome is moderately influenced by host genetics, it largely reflects microbial composition and significantly correlates with visceral fat. The objective of this PhD studentship is to identify the biochemical signature of human health in the faecal metabolome and to determine its links with diet, the gut-microbiome and host genetics. In order to reverse or prevent chronic disease, it is essential to understand how this is linked to diet and the gut microbiome offers a unique target for intervention. This is a totally novel proposal and we are the first group in the world to use faecal metabolites as health indicators. The ultimate goal of such an endeavour is to increase health-span, understanding how the molecules produced by microbes influence our health is crucial to this.

Seeking highly motivated early career researchers with a strong statistical/mathematical/bio-informatics background for a PhD studentship in human metabolomics/microbiome at the Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London. The Department has close links with Divisional and other Research Departments within King’s College, as well as many external Research Organisations.

The TwinsUK is probably the most intensively studied group in the world with a wide range of omic technologies already measured. Our group includes over 60 researchers and produces over 70 papers per year in high impact factor journals including Nature, Cell and Nature Genetics and are ranked in the world top 1% of cited scientists.

The successful candidates should have at least a BSc or equivalent in the areas of bio-informatics, statistics or mathematical sciences. The project’s main focus will be on quantitative analyses of microbiome and metabolites and will involve statistical analyses. The position will be based at King’s College London on the St Thomas’ Campus.

Informal enquiries can be made in the first instance to Dr Cristina Menni KCL or to Dr Ana M Valdes . To apply, please send to your CV, details of two academic referees and a supporting statement outlining why you are applying.

First supervisor: Dr Cristina Menni
Second supervisors: Dr Ana M Valdes
Third supervisor: Prof Tim D Spector

Funding Notes

The Studentship is open to UK & EU candidates. The funding also covers tuition fees at the EU (Home) rate. Applications from outside the EU are welcome provided candidates can source funding to cover the overseas fees.

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