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Identification of novel biomarkers to predict individual animal risk for pasture-associated laminitis

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 23, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This unique and exciting project aims to identify novel biomarkers to predict individual animal risk for pasture-associated laminitis (PAL). In collaboration with Professor Pat Harris (Head of Equine Studies Group, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition), this studentship offers a fantastic opportunity to work with a team of expert researchers in leading academic institutions.

Laminitis (of which PAL is the most common presentation) is a common and often fatal disease, initially presenting as severe foot pain. It is increasingly prevalent in industrialised nations, where horses and ponies make a significant contribution to land-use diversification and ownership is dominated by the leisure-sector. The digestion of sugar-rich grasses is associated with dysregulated host insulin:glucose dynamics, metabolic perturbations and gastrointestinal microbiome dysbiosis, all of which are causal triggers for PAL onset, although the precise mechanisms involved are unclear. Perplexingly, not all horses and ponies are equally susceptible to PAL and resilience against PAL by the majority of animals relaxes vigilance. However, for owners and animals, the acute onset of PAL can be unexpected and shocking. The identification of biomarkers alerting to individual animals at high risk of PAL, would be valued management tools.

Based at SRUC Aberdeen campus, the successful candidate will utilise a combination of field-work and laboratory-based analysis to identify novel faecal and/or urinary biomarkers of PAL risk. Characterisation of the faecal microbiome, urinary metabolome and additional markers of gut health will be conducted in collaboration with the Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen), using state of the art molecular tools. A full course of bioinformatics and appropriate statistical training will be offered during the project. Additionally, fundamental data will be gathered to establish the prevalence of owner-diagnosed PAL and associated management and horse-level risk factors.

Supervisory team: Professor Caroline Argo (SRUC), Professor Wendy Russell (University of Aberdeen), Dr Philippa Morrison (SRUC), Professor Pat Harris (Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition), Dr Madalina Neacsu (University of Aberdeen)
Registering University: University of Aberdeen.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (a degree in Veterinary Medicine would be desirable but not essential). A Masters degree in a relevant subject would be desirable.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year funded studentship provides an annual stipend allowance at Research Council UK rates, currently £14,777 per year for 2018/19 . The studentship will commence on 1st October 2019. This studentship is funded to pay the tuition fees of UK/EU nationals only. Non UK/EU nationals must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the higher international student tuition fee level (approximately £16,740 per year would be required).

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 57.37

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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