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Novel biomarkers to predict individual risk for pasture-associated laminitis in ponies

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 03, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Laminitis (of which pasture-associated laminitis (PAL) is the most common presentation) is a common and often fatal disease, initially presenting as severe foot pain. It is increasingly prevalent in industrialised nations, where horses make a significant contribution to land-use diversification and ownership is dominated by the leisure-sector. The digestion of sugar-rich grasses is associated with dysregulated host insulin:glucose dynamics, metabolic perturbations and gastrointestinal microbiome dysbiosis, all of which are causal triggers for PAL onset, although the precise mechanisms involved are unclear. Known risk factors for PAL include obesity, insulin dysregulation, and access to new pasture or increased grass consumption. Restricting pasture access may be an obvious preventative measure but is not always feasible for owners to implement. Perplexingly, not all horses and ponies are equally susceptible to PAL. Resilience against PAL by the majority of animals relaxes vigilance. However, for owners and animals, the acute onset of PAL can be unexpected and shocking. The identification of biomarkers alerting to individual animals at high risk of PAL, would be valued management tools.

This project offers a unique and exciting opportunity to combine field-work with state-of-the-art molecular tools in collaboration with the Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen) to characterise the faecal microbiome and urinary metabolome in native-breed ponies presenting with PAL in NE Scotland. The student will undertake a full course of bioinformatics and appropriate statistical training during the project. Additionally, the study-design employed will allow for the potential identification of novel faecal or urinary biomarkers to identify animals at risk for developing PAL, allowing for timely preventative interventions and ultimately improving animal welfare.
The studentship will commence on 1st October 2019 and will be based at SRUC’s Craibstone campus in Aberdeen and registered at the University of Aberdeen.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. A Masters degree in a relevant subject would be desirable.

Funding Notes

The stipend will be set at UKRI recommended levels for a 3.5 year-period and the studentship is funded to pay domestic tuition fee levels for UK/EU students. The student will receive an annual student stipend of £14,777 (£15,009 in 2019/20).This studentship will fund to pay the tuition fees at home fees rate only. International students must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the higher international student tuition fee level (approximately £16,740 per year would be required).

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 57.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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