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Fully Funded PhD Scholarship: Dietary assessment of knee pain sufferers and non-pharmaceutical oral therapies to improve symptoms and function in knee joint osteoarthritis

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, May 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This scholarship is funded by Swansea University’s College of Engineering and Nordic Medical Ltd.

Start date: July 2020

Subject areas: Nutrition; Osteoarthritis; Knee Pain

Project description:
Approximately 13% of over 50’s suffer from osteoarthritis globally, with ~16-27% reporting Knee-joint osteoarthritis (KOA). The reported incidence are estimated to raise with population age and obesity by ~2-4% annually, resulting in a lifetime-KOA risk of 61% in obese individuals. KOA is a progressive condition with no cure where acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are the traditional, non-lifestyle approach for early clinical management. However, NSAIDs in particular have harmful side effects such as severe cardiovascular events. Therefore, existing non-pharmaceutical alternatives are recommended as early treatment. The combination of nutraceutical compounds (food derived composites), to optimise potential synergistic effects aimed at improving OA symptoms have been suggested. The compounds below will be the focus on the proposed PhD research;

Lithothamnion species (red Algae) are rich in calcium, magnesium (Mg) and a variety of trace elements absorbed from sea-water during the organisms life and have been shown to improve KOA pain, symptoms (stiffness) and functional performance. Furthermore, in combination with pine bark and magnesium (Mg) have been shown to improve analgesic use by ~70% compared to the market leading glucosamine.

Proteoglycans (such as Aggrecan) are produced from marine tissue by-products and in human cartilage are embedded the extracellular matrix. Reduced proteoglycan concentration has been linked to the pathogenesis of OA. Recently, fish cartilage derived proteoglycan supplementation has shown to improvements in OA expression of and inflammatory biomarkers, histopathology, bone mineral density and markers of oxidative stress.

Furthermore, deficiencies in Mg intake have been associated with KOA pain and low serum Mg with radiographic severity, likely due to a greater Mg requirement in OA joints. Data from animal and in vitro experiments suggest that Mg might improve pain and other symptoms, partly through neuropathic and nociceptive inflammatory mediators.

This funded PhD studentship will focus on three main studies;
• in vivo bioactivity of the above versus placebo
• detailed nutritional, physical function (TuG, 6MWD, ROM etc.), analgesic use and joint structural status (X-ray) assessment of older persons suffering from knee pain
• a parallel double-blinded randomised placebo-control pilot-trial of the above nutrients in those suffering with persistent knee pain with structural damage


Candidates hold or expect to achieve a minimum of an upper second class (2:1) honours degree (or its equivalent) in Sports Science or similar relevant science discipline (Physiotherapy, Orthopaedics, Musculoskeletal Disease, Sports and Exercise Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Nutrition/dietetics Ageing).

The successful candidate will have evidence of completing high-quality research projects at BSc and MSc level with excellent interpersonal skills. Experience working with musculoskeletal disease, randomised control trials and/or aging is desirable but not necessary.

We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements (IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) to be met by point of application. For details on the University’s English Language entry requirements, please visit –

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Funding Notes

This scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,009 for three years with the capacity to earn an additional £2,000 per year from demonstrating.

There will be additional funds available for research expenses.

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