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Understanding degeneration in arthritic joints through engineering techniques

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 27, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Degeneration of the ankle joint affects over 70 million adults around the world, with patients often needing a joint replacement, ankle fusion or some other type of intervention. Simple injuries such as an ankle fracture or severe sprain earlier in life can start the pathway to degeneration. Other diseases, such as haemophilia, can also cause damage to the joint leading to degeneration.

In either case, these patients are often quite young – bleeding into the joint, through haemophilia, can begin in infancy, with patients needing interventions from 20 years old.  The injuries that lead to ankle arthritis are often high impact and sports related, with patients needing interventions in their early 50s.

Although the end-stage treatments of fusion or replacement are reasonably successful, more than 10% of cases will fail before 10 years post-op, and will require further surgery.  It is our goal to better understand the process of degeneration, so that ultimately we can develop new interventions to use at an earlier stage to prevent degeneration.

Engineering analysis of the natural joint provides a platform for understanding the changing biomechanics in the joint resulting from degeneration – including changing mechanical properties and surface characteristics. This project will utilise the advanced electron microscopy and spectroscopy, initially examining surface morphology, texture, structure and roughness to determine damage mechanisms. Crucially, a methodology encompassing appropriate sample preparation following full three-dimensional imaging will be developed, initially working on model samples before translating the application to human tissues obtained from donors. 

Analytical science and electron microscopy is a strength at the University of Leeds, and this studentship will develop and apply new 3D imaging and analysis techniques to materials not currently investigated in this way to understand the changes associated with arthritic degeneration.  

Funding Notes

Funding covers the cost of fees at £4,600 and provides a maintenance of £15,285 for the 2020/21 academic year. Funding duration is 3.5 years. UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.

How good is research at University of Leeds in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.80

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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