Coventry University Featured PhD Programmes
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Gut microbiota, wholegrain and pancreatic islet function in the development of type 2 diabetes

Project Description

Project area: The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has predicted that 629 million people will have diabetes by 2045, which will be over double the figure for 2000. The majority of these individuals have Type 2 diabetes (T2D), which occurs as a result of insulin resistance coupled with pancreatic beta-cell failure. This, in turns, leads to reduced control of blood glucose levels and hyperglycaemia. Understanding pancreatic islet function is essential for identifying the underlying disorder(s) in Type 2 diabetes and for identifying appropriate targets for novel therapeutic intervention.

Recent research has shown that the bacterial community (microbiota) in our intestinal system is very important for our overall health but also that its composition is changed in T2D. Reports suggest that individuals with T2D exhibit specific enrichment or depletion of certain adverse and beneficial bacterial groups of their gut microbiota and some dietary studies indicate that modification of the microbiota by diet has positive implications for the regulation of blood glucose levels. The positive impact of dietary manipulation of the microbiota in T2D has so far primarily been linked to changes in insulin resistance and may, however, also have direct, protective effects on insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreatic islets, particularly when they are exposed to cellular stresses typically seen in the development of T2D. Certain metabolites from for example wholegrain are known to have protective properties in cardiovascular health and cancer and the aim of this PhD project is to investigate whether dietary metabolites produced by the microbiota similarly impact the function of pancreatic beta cells in a positive manner.

Techniques and training: The experimental models used in this project will include an in vitro glass intestinal model (artificial gut) which simulate the condition of the intestine and is used to assess the impact of the microbiota on the breakdown of dietary products and production of metabolites. In addition, pancreatic cell lines and primary mouse islets will be used for assessment of physiological function, involving a number of cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry techniques relevant for the project and available within the modern labs of the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Roehampton. Depending on the project requirements, these will include cell and primary tissue culture, static secretion experiments, radioimmunoassay, flow cytometry, quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), DNA/RNA extraction and purification, mRNA reverse transcription, qPCR, western blotting, apoptosis and proliferation assays and use of ultra-high performance liquid chromatography triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (UHPLC-MS/MS). In addition to these lab-specific skills, the student will also develop transferable skills such as research design, project planning and organisation, report writing and dissemination of research findings.

Research Environment: Voted best modern university in London (Complete University Guide 2015) and the most research-intensive modern university in the UK (Times Higher Education Funding Council for England), Roehampton is committed to fostering an environment that places an emphasis on both teaching and research excellence. Set in a beautiful parkland campus, Roehampton is unique among modern London universities and the four Colleges have a rich 175-year history. We offer a range of excellent facilities as well as easy access to the world-class museums, libraries and galleries of one of the most exciting and successful cities in the world.

The successful candidate will join the Health Sciences Research Centre (HSRC), which is a multidisciplinary team within the Life Sciences Department. Research interests within the team cover areas of human health and disease such as nutrition, metabolic disorders, immunological and neurological disorders and cancer. There is a dynamic and active postgraduate research community and the applicant will take part in regular seminars, lab meetings and transferrable skills training.

Eligibility: Applicants should have the equivalent of a UK 2.1 honours undergraduate degree and a relevant MSc or MRes qualification in a related subject.

Funding Notes

All applicants should indicate in their applications how they intend to fund their studies. We have a thriving community of international PhD students and encourage applications at any time from students able to find their own funding or who wish to apply for their own funding.

Potential candidates should contact Dr. Astrid Hauge-Evans () including a CV, a personal statement and the contact details of two academic references.


Damsteegt EL, Hassan Z, Hewawasam NV, Jones PM and Hauge-Evans AC: A novel role for somatostatin in the survival of mouse pancreatic beta cells. Cell Physiol Biochem 2019;52:486-502

Costabile A, Sarnsamak K, Hauge-Evans AC: Coffee, type 2 diabetes and pancreatic islet function – A mini-review. Journal of functional Foods, 2018, 45:409-416.

Grimaldi R, Cela D, Swann JR, Vulevic J, Gibson GR, Tzortzis G, Costabile A (2016) In vitro fermentation of B-GOS: impact on faecal bacterial populations and metabolic activity in autistic and non-autistic children FEMS Microbiol Ecol Feb;93(2).

How good is research at University of Roehampton in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 10.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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