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RVC PhD: What Lies Beneath? – Imaging biomarkers of osteoarthritic cartilage disease

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  • Full or part time
    Dr R Meeson
    Prof A Pitsillides
  • 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

Non-RVC Supervisor: Professor Chaozong Liu, Professor of Orthopaedic Bioengineering, Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, Research Department of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, UCL, Stanmore

- Project Summary -
Osteoarthritis (OA), common in humans and dogs, is the painful and debilitating end-destination of diseased joints. OA is typified by articular cartilage degradation, subchondral cyst and bone marrow lesion (BML) formation, osteophytogenesis and significant modifications to bone mass and geometry. Whilst the relationship of the surface cartilage to the underlying bone is now recognised as crucial, the development of their reciprocal changes, and disease progression are elusive.

This project will employ recent advances to accurately image bone changes using micro-computed tomography (uCT). Hip OA in dogs occurs frequently, is a welfare issue and provides an opportunity for novel insight into OA development. Currently, bone features in canine hip OA have not been fully examined and their relationship to OA pathology are not yet recognised. We will exploit high-resolution uCT imaging to characterise these bone structural features in healthy (normal) and OA canine femoral heads allowing us to test our hypothesis: that specific micro-architectural bone changes exhibit spatial links which are predictive of the progressive cartilage demise in OA, thus potentially allowing a non-invasive means to accurately determine early and progressive OA.

The PhD will address the following aims:
1 - To quantitatively characterise subchondral/trabecular 3D bone changes (ex vivo) and correlate their spatial links with severity of articular cartilage degeneration;
2 - To identify whether BML/cysts are linked to subchondral/trabecular 3D bone changes and severity of articular cartilage degeneration;
3 - To determine whether the underlying pathology present in BMLs of clinically affected dogs corroborates that found in humans.
4 - To use clinical scale MRI and uCT for BML/cyst to identify representative and non-invasive surrogate measures of subchondral/trabecular bone changes in OA development, and to discern whether these facilitate early stage OA detection which predicts the progression of OA cartilage lesion severity without direct arthroscopic imaging.

The student will be based in the Internationally renowned Skeletal Biology group in Camden, with strong clinical links into Europe’s Largest Referral Hospital, the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, RVC. Parallel work in human samples are being undertaken at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (UCL Stanmore), reinforcing the ‘one medicine’ ties will be developed with the pet dog as the focus in this particular PhD

- Essential Requirements -
-Applicants must hold, or expected to achieve a first or upper second-class undergraduate honours degree or equivalent, or an MSci or Masters in a relevant subject.
-Computer literacy will be important, and this PhD would appeal to those minded to working with computer programmes and managing large volumes of data.

- Desirable Requirements -
-A background in veterinary medicine or allied work is desirable but not essential. Although this is a basic research, study samples will be from clinically diseased animals
-A background in advanced imaging (microCT, CT or MRI) would also be desirable, but not essential.

Funding Notes

A 3 year fully-funded studentship open to Home/EU applicants. International students are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between UK/EU and international tuition fees.

The studentship will commence in October 2020.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please follow the link below. Please use your personal statement to demonstrate any previous skills or experience you have in using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, or background in biological/clinical or veterinary science.

References

1 - Kraus, V. B. et al. Predictive Validity of Radiographic Trabecular Bone Texture in Knee Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheumatol 70, 80–87 (2017).

2 - Chappard, C. et al. Subchondral bone micro-architectural alterations in osteoarthritis: a synchrotron micro-computed tomography study. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 14, 215–223 (2006).

3 - Staines et al., A Computed Microtomography Method for Understanding Epiphyseal Growth Plate Fusion. Front Mater. 2018 Jan 23;4:48.



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