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Gut microbiome-derived metabolites and their protective effect on metabolic health and immunity SSEHS/LH

   School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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  Dr L Heaney, Dr J King, Dr NC Bishop  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

This project aims to assess the impact of gut bacteria-mediated metabolites as postbiotic supplements to improve metabolic function and systemic immunity.

The workings of the gut microbiome have gained increasing interest in recent years through the mounting evidence that the microbiota plays an influential role in human health and disease. A principal focus of this research seeks to further understand the production of metabolic by-products produced by bacteria resident in the gut, and the subsequent interaction of these metabolites on host physiology and pathophysiology of disease.

These molecules of interest are produced by the gut microbiota through the metabolism of dietary compounds. These metabolites are then passed into the systemic circulation where they can have both positive and negative effects on human physiology. Whilst there is a substantial base of evidence for the supplementation of probiotics (to alter the gut microbiome) and prebiotics (to feed the beneficial bacteria), less is known regarding the use of postbiotics (gut microbial metabolites) as potential health supplements.

In this project, you will have the opportunity to design and implement dietary human intervention trials to assess changes in common health variables following the postbiotic supplementation of gut-derived metabolites. This will be done using a number of approaches which could include:

  • Oral glucose tolerance tests
  • Metabolic control, including systemic inflammation and blood pressure
  • Subjective hunger and appetite hormone responses
  • Markers of immunity and the prevalence of seasonal infections
  • Assessment of mood/anxiety and stress-related biomarkers.

You will be provided with an outstanding opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills in physiological testing and biochemical measurements. Training and experience in innovative laboratory-based measurements including plate-based assays and quantitative mass spectrometry will be provided. This offers you the potential to develop industry- and academia-relevant skills to build and progress into future career options.

Overall, the project offers the chance to work in an ever-growing area of research linking the workings of the gut microbiome with human health and disease.


Primary supervisor: Dr Liam Heaney

Secondary supervisors: Dr James KingProf Lettie BishopDr Andrea Salzano (External Collaborator)

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Biomedical Sciences, Biology/Biochemistry, Nutrition, or a related subject. A relevant Masters degree and/or experience in one or more of the following will be highly advantageous: Cardiovascular Science, Nutrition, Biochemical Analysis (mass spectrometry).

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Find out more about research degree funding

How to apply

All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences. Please quote the advertised reference number: SSEHS/LH in your application.

To avoid delays in processing your application, please ensure that you submit the minimum supporting documents.

Apply now

Funding Notes

UK fee
£4,596 full-time degree per annum
International fee
£25,100 full-time degree per annum
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.
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