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Nanoscale damage markers for early osteoarthritis detection in the bone-cartilage unit

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 03, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis (OA) increase pain and reduce quality of life for millions of people worldwide, with 8 million people seeking treatment in the UK and hospital expenditures over $40 billion in the US alone. As a progressive degenerative condition, it is critical to detect and treat OA early, but there are currently few reliable biomarkers. It is known that joint injury can lead to OA-development, but it is unclear how injury causes early tissue structural damage to develop at the nano- and microscale in the bone-cartilage unit – and lead to OA.

This project will discover the key damage and deformation processes initiated at the nanoscale in the tissue matrix of the bone-cartilage unit during injurious mechanical loading, and the dose-response thresholds at which nanoscale damage occurs.

We will analyse the structural changes induced by injurious loads in cartilage and bone tissue of diarthroidal joints, using high-resolution micro- and nanoscale imaging techniques like X-ray micro-computed tomography (CT), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and cryo-scanning-electron microscopy. These will be correlated to cellular markers of injury and inflammation. By developing a micro-compression rig to image bone-joint loading during CT- and SAXS measurements, we will obtain multiscale measurements of tissue strain-concentrations, enabling detection for the first time of nanoscale structural damage and the correlation with OA. The project will use state-of-the-art imaging and analysis techniques at Diamond Synchrotron (Harwell) and at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (Potsdam). The translational impact will be to discover novel nanoscale damage signatures of OA, which could potentially be detected clinically.

EPSRC Research Studentship Details
To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) applicants must have:
• settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay and
• been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to October 2019. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK
(apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
• Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK nationals).
(See: for more details)
• Full Time programme only.
• Applicant required to start in autumn 2019.
• The studentship arrangement will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for up to three years (set as £17,009 in 2019/20).
• The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or
MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
• If English is not your first language then you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum
score of 6 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).

Supervisor Contact Details:
For informal enquiries about this position, please contact Dr. Himadri S. Gupta (or Prof. Martin M. Knight)
Tel: 020 7882 8867 or 020 7882 8868
E-mail: or
Application Method:
To apply for this studentship and for entry on to the Medical Engineering programme (Full Time) please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage:

Research degrees in Engineering:

Further Guidance:

Please be sure to include a reference to ‘2019 SEMS EPSRC HSG’ to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.

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