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Computational modelling and simulation of surgery in craniosynostosis associated cerebrospinal fluid disorders (Ref FHMS - FF - 24 VET)

   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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  Prof Clare Rusbridge, Dr Serge Cirovic  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) associated with a premature fusion of skull-bone joints results in hydrocephalous (ventricle dilatation with brain swelling) and syringomyelia (fluid cavitation of the spinal cord). There is no effective long term drug therapy for these conditions and management is surgical. However as many as 1 in 3 patients have a poor long term post operative outcome. This is part due to incomplete understanding of the pathogenesis of ventricular dilatation or syringomyelia and part due to failure of surgery to normalise key physiological parameters such as intracranial pressure and CSF flow pattern. The success rate for revision surgery is even poorer. There is no specific, agreed-upon surgical pathway, different neurosurgeons often recommend different surgical techniques, and there is no specific criteria or objective tests used to determine when surgery is necessary or the optimal procedure. 

The aim of this project is to develop computer (finite element) model of the entire cranio-spinal cavity to simulate movement of the CSF, pressure within the cranium, mechanical stress in the brain and spinal cord, movement of the interstitial fluid within the nervous tissue parenchyma, and communication between the cerebrospinal and interstitial fluids. Model development will be based around canine breeds with exceptionally high incidence of craniosynostosis-related disorders, with the view of translating the techniques to human patients. The purpose of the model is to perform “virtual surgery” via computer simulations of alternative surgical approaches. This will allow us to compare the effectiveness of competing strategies. This “engineering in medicine” project is a joint effort between the School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Mechanical Engineering of Sciences at the University of Surrey. We are looking for a candidate with strong background in computer modelling preferably with the application in human and animal medicine. The student will have an opportunity to further develop a wide range of skills in veterinary neurology and modelling of cerebrospinal dynamics supported by our highly interdisciplinary research team. 

Principle Supervisor – Clare Rusbridge

Over the last 25 years Clare Rusbridge has provided solutions for the painful disease Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. In 1997 she delivered the first comprehensive description of the canine disorder and has continued to refine understanding of the pathogenesis, genetics, and treatment of this disorder. She has authored or co-authored 59 scholarly articles on this subject alone, along with book chapters and co-editing a textbook on the human disease [Email Address Removed].

Co-supervisor – Serge Cirovic 

Dr Serge Cirovic has years of experience in modelling in biomechanics including cardiovascular system dynamics, the effect of impact/acceleration on soft tissues, and therapeutic use of high-pressure waves. One of his main interests is in the dynamics of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) movement and its role in the aetiology of syringomyelia. Dr Cirovic has developed numerous models of spinal CSF flow and has key theoretical contributions to the understanding of the CSF pulse propagation in the spinal column. 

Together with Prof. Rusbridge and other collaborators, Dr Cirovic constructed a finite element model of the canine spinal cord, spinal CSF system and the surrounding meninges. This model will serve as a starting point for construction the of the complete cranio-spinal computer model

Entry requirements

Open to UK and international students with the project starting in October 2023. Note that a maximum of 30% of the studentships will be offered to international students.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme

How to apply

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant principal supervisor(s) to discuss the project(s) before submitting their application.

Applications should be submitted via the programme page (N.B. Please select the October 2023 start date when applying).

You may opt to apply for a single project or for 2 of these Faculty-funded studentship projects.

When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a brief motivational document (1 page maximum) which specifies:

  • the reference numbers(s) for the project or two projects you are applying for 
  • the project title(s) and principal supervisor name(s) 
  • if applying for two projects, please also indicate your order of preference for the projects
  • an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD 
  • an explanation of your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen

Additionally, to complete a full application, you MUST also email a copy of your CV and 1-page motivational document directly to the relevant project principal supervisor of each project you apply for. Due to short turnaround times for applicant shortlisting, failure to do this may mean that your application is not considered.

Please note that online interviews for shortlisted applicants are expected to take place during the week commencing 30th January.

Funding Notes

Funding is for 3.5 years and includes UKRI-aligned stipend (£17,668 pa for 2022-23), approved University of Surrey fees and a research budget. This studentship is funded by Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey.
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