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Psoriatric arthritis (PsA)

Project Description

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) affects around 120,000 people in the UK. In addition to psoriasis (skin disease) patients can have inflamed, stiff and painful joints which, in severe cases, can become permanently deformed or damaged, and may require surgery. The combination of arthritis and psoriasis, and a number of important physical and psychological comorbidities, can greatly reduce patients’ quality of life, and can have a significant impact on working status.

There are now a number of exciting and potent drugs available that target the specific defective pathways in the immune system which lead to the PsA. The University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with the Universities of Glasgow, Leeds and Newcastle, is coordinating a large study – the British Society for Rheumatology Psoriatic Arthritis Register – to examine the long term effects and impact of these therapies in patients in the UK. Patient recruitment to the study began in 2018 and the study will recruit >1500 patients from 80 hospitals across the UK. The study is funded for 5yrs in the first instance and will compare the progress of patients with PsA receiving these targeted drugs, compared to those who receive other treatments, as part of their standard NHS care. These drugs have proven to be hugely beneficial in treating rheumatoid arthritis so there is great interest in being able to study their benefits in PsA. Studies like this are absolutely essential to get ‘real world’ data on the effects and effectiveness of these new drugs in comparison to more conventional treatments.

An exciting opportunity exists for a PhD student to analyse some of the data from the BSR-PsA. The study is collecting a vast amount of data from participants, at multiple timepoints, including:
* Symptom onset and duration
* Joint disease
* Skin disease
* Nail disease
* Dactylitis
* Enthesopathy
* Physical measurements
* Comorbidities
* Spinal involvement
* Generic health
* Axial disease
* Sleep / fatigue / fibromyalgia
* Quality of life / impact of disease
* Functional status
* Mental health
* Employment

Although the project maps directly on to the “Symptoms and early diagnosis” strategic themes of the Institute of Applied Health Sciences (, the precise direction of the PhD can be tailored to suit the successful candidate’s skills, experience and interest. Thus, the precise research questions will be decided by the candidate, in collaboration with the supervisors but may include:
* Prevalence and impact of symptoms of PsA
* Prognostic value of symptoms – in terms of natural history
* Clinical usefulness of disease phenotype as a predictor of treatment response


The Epidemiology Group at the University of Aberdeen is one of the major research groups in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. The Group’s programme of applied epidemiological research is focused on arthritis and musculoskeletal health. Our epidemiological work seeks to understand mechanisms of disease onset and outcome, this then informs our programme of observational studies and randomised controlled trials on disease management, which in turn feeds into our work on designing, implementing and evaluating health services for patients with these conditions.

The successful candidate will also benefit from involvement in the Aberdeen Centre for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health (ACAMH), one of the Centres of Excellence within the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, and also a European Centre of Excellence in rheumatological research. ACAMH provides a multidisciplinary research environment, and also a close working relationship with scientists within the Institute of Medical Science, clinical staff at NHS Grampian, and patients.
Outside Aberdeen, the candidate will also benefit from the collaboration with the study’s partner institutions, with collaborators at the Universities of Glasgow, Leeds and Newcastle.


Further information is available from:
* Epidemiology Group
* Supervisory team
This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of APPLIED HEALTH SCIENCE. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Health Science, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Candidates should contact the lead supervisor to discuss the project in advance of submitting an application, as supervisors will be expected to provide a letter of support for suitable applicants. Candidates will be informed after the application deadline if they have been shortlisted for interview.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded by the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. Full funding is available to UK/EU candidates only. Overseas candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £15,680 per annum).

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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