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Longitudinal analysis of the effects of lifelong physical activity on muscle and immune ageing

Project Description

Applications are invited for a prestigious three year full time PhD Studentship starting in October 2019. The PhD studentship is a collaborative project between the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing (IIA) at the University of Birmingham, UK and the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological sciences at Kings College London, UK.

Ageing is accompanied by sarcopenia and remodelling of the immune system, contributing to frailty and multimorbidity. However, we previously showed that many of these changes were less pronounced in older adults who had maintained high levels of physical activity (Duggal et al 2018; Pollock et al 2015). The aim of this PhD studentship is to examine the impact of physical activity on the trajectory of decline in physiological and immunological outcomes in a longitudinal study of highly active older adults and determine the mechanisms involved in any improved trajectory.

The student will spend the first year of the studentship in the lab of Prof Harridge at KCL to resample the cyclist cohort (originally sampled in 2012), develop an understanding of muscle physiology in older people and learn techniques used for assessment of cardiorespiratory and muscle systems. The next two years will be spent in Dr Duggal’s lab firstly assessing immune senescence in this unique cohort of highly active older adults. Secondly, the underlying mechanisms driving improved ageing trajectories namely: DNA damage repair, autophagy, metabolism, senescence, epigenetic modifications will be examined.

Understanding how the normal ageing process affects physiological and immunological function is a necessity if we are to maximise health and wellbeing in later life. However, the mechanisms associated with exercise mediated muscular and immune enhancement in older adults are poorly understood, but are likely to be inter-linked. This work will generate new insights into understanding of the ageing process and will benefit public health influencers and clinicians. Also, revealing the mechanisms underlying the benefits of physical activity and could be used as novel therapeutic targets for adults not able to maintain physical activity in to old age.

Person Specification
Applicants should have a strong background in immunology. They should have a commitment to research in immune ageing and physiology and hold or realistically expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a relevant biological subject.

How to apply
Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Niharika A Duggal ().
Applications should be directed to Lisa Fuller (email – ). To apply, please send:
• A detailed CV, including your nationality and country of birth;
• Names and addresses of two referees;
• A covering letter highlighting your research experience/capabilities;
• Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts;
• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

This studentship is full-time and will begin on 1st of October 2019
Interviews will take place on 22nd March 2019.

Funding Notes

To be eligible for a full award, a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award. To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU; in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK. Further information on eligibility is available online - View Website


Duggal NA, Pollock RD, Lazarus NR, Harridge S, Lord JM (2018) Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood. Aging Cell 17:2.

Pollock RD, Carter S, Velloso CP, Duggal NA, Lord JM, Lazarus NR, Harridge SR (2015) An investigation into the relationship between age and physiological function in highly active older adults. J Physiol. 593:657-80.

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