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Short-term exercise-induced protection: novel application of short-term handgrip to reduce cardiovascular injury following surgery in coronary artery disease patient

   Faculty of Health

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  Prof G A Hutcheon, Dr D Thijssen  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Two Full-time PhD (via MPhil) studentships are available at Liverpool John Moores University, via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC NWC). NIHR ARC NWC is one of 15 regional ARCS funded by the NIHR to bring together those needed to support research to improve health and care. Our vision is to address the considerable health inequalities across our region through the collaborative production and implementation of high-quality applied health research in our five themes. Research supported by the ARC NWC must be relevant to the needs of the diverse communities served by the NIHR ARC NWC and its local health and care system, and be generalisable across health and care nationally, as well as within the local health and care system where it is conducted. Our Doctoral Fellows are distributed across the themes and universities and are a crucial part of our Academic Career Development Strategy.

The supervisory teams have a broad range of expertise, and experience in successful supervision to PhD completion. Two from the 11 projects currently advertised will be funded, reference ARC1-11.

Short-term exercise-induced protection: novel application of short-term handgrip to reduce cardiovascular injury following surgery in coronary artery disease patients.

Background. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the UK and worldwide. While coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery remains the preferred strategy to restore blood flow to the heart in CAD patients, the risk of peri- and post-surgery complications is high, largely because of tissue damage from ischaemia (inadequate blood supply) during surgery. Following exciting new observations in our laboratory, this project will test the concept that single bouts of exercise prior to surgery protects against cardiac injury.

New concept. It is well established that regular exercise protects against cardiovascular disease, however it is commonly believed that it takes several months to reap the benefits from exercise. Studies have found that a single bout of exercise may lead to a 50% smaller infarct size. In a series of experiments, we have found that even a single bout of handgrip exercise can reduce infarct size. We aim to extend these unique observations to patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Project. Handgrip exercise has the advantage over traditional forms of exercise due to its simplicity, lower cardiac strain, and low-cost implementation within a home-based environment. Most importantly, handgrip exercise can be applied in a clinical situation, such as the days prior to cardiac surgery. Taken together, this project aims to translate this work around (handgrip) exercise to clinical populations, especially in those prior to cardiac surgery (whom are recommended to prevent any type of physical activity and, therefore, are at risk for deconditioning), to lower post-surgery cardiac injury and improve post-surgery outcomes.

PhD candidate. This project represents an exciting project, focused on the translation of novel pre-clinical observations to patients. The candidate should demonstrate expertise in (pre)clinical work in cardiology and strong interest in cardiovascular physiology. There will be potential to apply for subsequent postdoctoral position.

Contact details: For more information please contact Professor Dick Thijssen ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

The full-time studentships are tenable up to 3 years full-time (subject to satisfactory progress) and will cover the cost of tuition fees at Home rates. A stipend in line with the UK Research Council is payable at £15609 per annum, and an additional Research Training Support Grant of up to £1000 per year will be paid for approved research costs.
Due to funding restrictions, the studentships are open to Home applicants only. It is expected the successful applicant (s) will commence on 1st February 2022.


Within their application, potential applicants must:
• Provide their CV
• Provide a cover letter that:
• states the title of the project they are applying for.
• includes a statement explaining why they would want to undertake postgraduate research in this specific area. Please contact the relevant supervisor for further details if required.
• demonstrates consideration of the HIAT toolkit for the proposed research project.
Applicants should have (or expect to have been formally awarded by 31st December 2021) at least a UK Bachelor honours degree at second class (upper division) level (or equivalent qualification) in a relevant discipline
Applicants must have completed and been awarded any current course of study by the proposed start date (before 1st February 2022) otherwise they will not be shortlisted.

Applicants require an English Language level of UKVI IELTS 6.5 (no sub-score less than 6.0) or acceptable UCLan equivalent qualification.
Further information
Completed applications consisting of a CV and cover letter should be returned by email to Prof. Gillian Hutcheon quoting the studentship reference number ARC11.
Fixed Interview Date: 7th December 2021
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