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(MRC DTP) Imaging the microvasculature in preeclampsia

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Murray
    Dr Stephanie Worton
    Dr E Johnstone
    Dr J Myers
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Preeclampsia, new onset high blood pressure and protein in the urine in pregnancy, occurs in 3% of pregnancies and is a common cause of maternal and infant illness and death worldwide. Once diagnosed, one of the challenges of preeclampsia is the unpredictable course of disease progression with some women rapidly progressing to multi-organ failure and others deteriorating more slowly. Microvascular constriction and endothelial dysfunction are common pathophysiological features of the disease. If they could be measured non-invasively it would permit a better understanding of how the disease progresses, when treatment should be started and factors that affect outcome.
The aim of this project is to investigate whether we can: 1) observe changes in the microvasculature in the skin of women with preeclampsia using non-invasive imaging; 2) determine whether these changes could be an early ‘red flag’, before other clinical markers indicating deterioration; 3) determine whether these changes could be prognostic.
Imaging will be done with several techniques; thermal imaging to measure blood flow, nailfold capillaroscopy, a technique to image capillaries (small blood vessels) in the fingers, and multispectral imaging which measures oxygenation in the skin. This cross-disciplinary project will be carried out at St Mary’s Hospital (Manchester) and the Microvascular Research Imaging Laboratories at Salford Royal Hospital.
Training will be given on imaging techniques to enable fully independent measurement and analysis. These techniques will then be applied longitudinally in a cohort of women with preeclampsia and matched normotensive controls. Measurements will be taken every 2-7 days from diagnosis until 7 days post-delivery (with one set of images taken post-birth) to assess longitudinal change. Data analysis will be performed to determine the cross sectional and temporal relationships between the parameters from each technique and how they relate to clinical markers, thereby elucidating the role of the microvasculature in preeclampsia.
This study will examine novel and entirely new relationships in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. It is expected that the project will generate preliminary data and lay the foundations for further collaboration. In the longer term we envisage the development of a portable low-cost imaging device for use in outpatient settings and in developing countries where preeclampsia has huge impact on women’s health.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the MRC DTP website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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