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Longitudinal study on the relationship of the gut microbiome to disease progression in the UK MND population

Project Description

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a devastating neurodegenerative condition characterised by progressive deterioration of motor functions until death normally results from respiratory failure. There is no cure for MND, so treatment is focussed on management of associated symptoms such as depression, hyper-salivation and pain resulting from stiffness/cramping. Patient survival is often quoted as being on average 2-3 years post-diagnosis, but there is huge variation in individual outcomes. Whilst genomic studies have revealed a number of mutations associated with the condition, the reasons for such widely varying prognostic outcomes are still poorly understood.

Microbiomics is the study of the collective genomes of microscopic organisms living within and upon individuals, and the roles these inhabitants play in the biology of the host. Recently, actions of microbes have been implicated in modifying a number of conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. To date, little work has been done investigating the impact of the microbiome on MND.

The aim of this project is to characterise the microbiomes of newly-diagnosed MND patients, and investigate any link between the microbial groups represented and rate of disease progression. With the help of a well-established clinical research team, the objectives are:
- identify any global differences that exist between controls, confirmed MND and disease controls
- within the MND group, investigate any microbiome differences between slow and fast progressors
- if appropriate, infer functional significance of any differences and attempt to find evidence in support of these hypotheses

This PhD project provides an excellent opportunity to undertake groundbreaking research in a fast-developing area of science. The successful candidate will benefit from working within a highly successful research group in a world leading centre for research into neurodegenerative diseases.

Funding Notes

This project is open to self-funded students only.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree or significant research experience. Either experience in a molecular biology laboratory or of bioinformatics analysis of large genomic datasets is essential. Candidates must be fluent in written and spoken English.


Interested candidates should in the first instance contact (Prof Chris McDermott, [email protected])

How to apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select (Neuroscience) as the department.

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