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  MSc By Research: Characterising skeletal muscle biology with age and changing body compositions


   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The MSc by Research programme at the University of Aberdeen is for students interested in a research-intensive master's degree. It is designed specifically to enhance your skills for a PhD or research career. If you have your own ideas for a research project in this area, we would love to hear from you! Please reach out to one of the project supervisors above to discuss your ideas.

You can find further information about our academic requirements and programme structure here.

Body composition changes during the ageing process, marked by a change in the fat/lean mass ratio. This change is due combination of biological and environmental factors with decreasing physical activity one important environmental factor, however the biological mechanisms are not fully understood. Skeletal muscle mass and quality is important in body composition and in maintaining physical activity [1]. Approximately 40% of the human body is comprised of skeletal muscle, which contributes the largest quantitative component of energy expenditure in the body Skeletal muscle is also the major postprandial glucose depot in the body and is key in maintaining insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is often reduced during the aging process, and we have shown that primary skeletal muscle cells have multifaceted dysfunction in people with metabolic disease [2]. One important function of skeletal muscle is to respond to insulin by taking up and storing glucose. This is facilitated by insulin-dependent translocation of glucose transporters to the cell membrane. We have developed a novel, unique high-throughput, live-cell assay in skeletal muscle cells that can detect glucose transporter translocation. This versatile screening tool can incorporate circadian, time-course assays, and loss/gain-of-function experiments. We will develop the translational aspect of this assay by obtaining primary human skeletal muscle cells from a range of participants in partnership with the NHS Grampian Biorepository. Additionally, we will generate a bank of human skeletal muscle samples and primary cells to create a resource for the identification of skeletal muscle targets which underlie changes in body composition during ageing. We have previously developed a database of skeletal muscle responses to exercise [3]. In this current project we will use RT-qPCR and histology to further characterise muscle samples. These unique data will help explain how muscle contributes to a change in body composition during ageing.

Aim 1: Assess human skeletal muscle samples for the identification of skeletal muscle targets which underlie changes in body composition during ageing.

Aim 2: Use previously established human cells with a novel high-throughput, live-cell assay in skeletal muscle cells that can detect glucose transporter translocation to characterise insulin sensitivity during aging.

Objective 1: Obtain skeletal muscle samples and more primary cells from a range of participants in partnership with the NHS Grampian Biorepository.

Objective 2: Characterise these samples and previously established cells using RT-qPCR, histology and novel assays unique to our lab.

Training opportunities: The student will be trained in a number of laboratory techniques including, but not limited to: cell-culture, molecular biology, human tissue biopsy processing and analysis.

 In addition, the student will be a member of the Aberdeen Cardiovascular and Diabetes Centre and be a part of a team of students and early career researchers with direct involvement in planning and delivery of public engagement and outreach activities, regular research talks and seminars and many other student-led activities.

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Applicants to this project should hold a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact Dr Brendan Gabriel () for further information.

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APPLICATION PROCEDURE:

Please note: This is a self-funded opportunity.

  • Prospective students should contact the lead supervisor (via the email address listed above) to discuss the research project and complete a proposal form prior to / or shortly after applying.
  • Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
  • You should apply for Medical Sciences (MSc) to ensure your application is passed to the correct team.
  • Please clearly note the name of the supervisor and the project title on the application form. If this is not included, your application may not be considered for the project.
  • Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) at undergraduate level.
  • Your application must include: a personal statement, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and clear copies of your educational certificates and transcripts.
  • If you are still undertaking your undergraduate degree, it is helpful to the selection panel if you could provide documentation showing your grades to date (this can be a screenshot from an online portal).
  • Please note: Project supervisors will not respond to requests for funding assistance.
  • If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at 
Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

This is a self-funding project open to students worldwide. Our typical start dates for this programme are February or October.
Fees for this programme are £4,712 for home/UK students, and £24,860 for international students.
Additional research costs / Bench fees of £3,000 will also apply.
The Scottish Government offers postgraduate loans to those due to start a Masters (taught or research) programme.

References

1. Gabriel BM, Zierath JR (2017) The Limits of Exercise Physiology: From Performance to Health. Cell Metab. 25:1000–1011
2. Gabriel BM, Altıntaş A, B Smith JA, et al (2021) Disrupted circadian oscillations in type 2 diabetes are linked to altered rhythmic mitochondrial metabolism in skeletal muscle. Sci Adv 7. https://doi.org/10.1126/SCIADV.ABI9654
3. Pillon NJ, Gabriel BM, Dollet L, et al (2020) Transcriptomic profiling of skeletal muscle adaptations to exercise and inactivity. Nat Commun 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-13869-w

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