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  Evaluating the effect of exercise on immune-driven disease activity in individuals with type-1 diabetes

   School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

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  Dr A Wadley, Prof Parth Narendran  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Type-1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterised by targeted destruction of beta cells within the pancreas by autoreactive immune cells (i.e. T and B cells). The annual cost of T1D to the NHS is £1.8 billion per year, with the majority of these costs relating to disease complications (e.g. cardiovascular disease and nerve damage). Strategies to prevent the decline in beta cell function and mitigate these complications are therefore urgently required. Preliminary evidence suggests that newly diagnosed patients who are more physically active can preserve beta cell function and thus delay their insulin requirements by 5-fold. Furthermore, there is evidence that structured exercise can lower insulin requirements in patients with long-standing T1D. The mechanisms underpinning these marked clinical benefits are not clear, but could involve improvements in insulin sensitivity and reduced autoimmune activity towards beta cells within the pancreas.

A large body of work supports the notion that regular exercise can improve immune function and reduce systemic inflammation in humans; however, whether exercise directly impacts autoimmune activity in patients with T1D is unknown. The purpose of this PhD programme is to investigate the impact of single bouts of exercise and structured exercise programmes on beta cell autoimmunity and clinical outcomes in patients with T1D. The projects will involve analysing samples from completed exercise studies and facilitating the delivery of future clinical exercise trials in patients with newly diagnosed T1D (funding secured). With up to 70% of patients with T1D not adhering to the recommended exercise guidelines, this project seeks to provide novel evidence to promote patient and healthcare professionals’ engagement with exercise and swiftly impact national treatment regimens for T1D.

The successful candidate will undertake a PhD program, based within the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences under the supervision of Dr Alex Wadley, along with other academics within the Medical School. This project will provide the selected student with unique access to numerous research opportunities across a broad range of disciplines (clinical trials management, immunology, biochemistry and exercise physiology). The laboratory work will involve handling human primary cells and techniques such as flow cytometry and ELISA. The potential candidate would ideally have some experience with these, although full training will be provided. This project is funded by two external grants; however, the student would be required to self-fund or have a PhD scholarship secured.

Interested candidates should initially send a detailed CV and covering letter highlighting research experience and capabilities to Dr Alex Wadley at [Email Address Removed].

Following this, candidates will invited to submit a full application, providing the following documents:

• Names and addresses of two referees.

• Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts.

• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded UK/EU students and International students who have at least an upper second class degree in a relevant discipline.


1. Narendran, P. et al. Exercise to preserve β-cell function in recent-onset Type 1 diabetes mellitus (EXTOD) - a randomized controlled pilot trial. Diabet. Med. 34, 1521–1531 (2017).

2. Chetan, M. R. et al. The Type 1 diabetes ‘honeymoon’ period is five times longer in men who exercise: a case–control study. Diabet. Med. 36, 127–128 (2019).

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