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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Understanding the mechanisms involved in periodontal disease-mediated initiation of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Faculty of Medicine and Health

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Prof D Devine No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Leeds United Kingdom Dentistry Immunology Microbiology

About the Project

Infectious inflammation at mucosal sites such as the oral cavity is suspected as a triggering event in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pathogenesis and periodontitis is known to be associated with RA (1,2). Our multidisciplinary research team is exploring this association, bringing together basic scientists and clinicians from the School of Dentistry and LBRC; both will contribute to the PhD supervision team. The project will expand upon the findings of our collaboration to date (3-5) but will open new opportunities by focussing on host defences.

We demonstrated that the periodontitis-RA disease association is present prior to the onset of RA in those serologically deemed at-risk and that there are perturbations (dysbiosis) of the oral microbiome at both healthy and diseased sites in this group (3,4). We are continuing with a pilot periodontal intervention study throughout 2021, generating further data and samples to the benefit of this scholarship.

We aim now to uncover the mechanisms underpinning the contribution of oral disease to the development of autoimmunity in RA, focussing on the misguided and destructive host immune responses to periodontal pathogens. Our goal, to understand the association between oral periodontal disease and systemic RA, is directly aligned to the SoD Research strategy theme Oral/Systemic Health “Putting the mouth back in the body”, and to the development and renewal of the NIHR LBRC. Discoveries from this project will feed into funding applications, leading to the development of interventions to improve dental health, reduce/promote resolution of inflammation and reduce/delay the onset of RA symptoms within this group.


To uncover mechanisms by which chronic inflammatory and immune responses in periodontitis contribute to RA pathogenesis.

Equip student with a breadth of research skills for translational interdisciplinary research.


  • Identification of robust transcriptomic and proteomic signatures using established clinical dataset and oral clinical cohort sample bank. Feasibility for identification of autoimmunity-linked post-translational modifications has been demonstrated within such samples (6, RAP unpublished data).
  • Functional assessment of salivary and peripheral blood neutrophils and comparison within the different cohort groups.
  • Analyses will inform in vitro experiments examining the impact of key bacteria on host inflammatory (epithelial) and innate (neutrophil) responses.

The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

How to apply:

To apply for this scholarship applicants should complete an online Faculty Scholarship Application form and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School [Email Address Removed]

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to complete the online Scholarship Reference form on your behalf and send directly to [Email Address Removed] by no later than Friday 9 April 2021.

If you have already applied for other scholarships using the Faculty Scholarship Application form you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email [Email Address Removed] to inform us you would like to be considered for this scholarship project.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to [Email Address Removed] 

Closing date for this scholarship is Friday 9 April 2021.

Funding Notes

A fully funded PhD scholarship is available for a start in October 2021. The scholarship will cover UK tuition fees* and attract an annual tax-free stipend of £15,285 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress.
*International applicants may apply but must make up the difference between UK International tuition fees. Candidates whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study.


1) Kaur S, White S, Bartold PM. (2013) Periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis: a
systematic review. Journal of Dental Research, 92(5):399-408.
2) Cheng Z, Meade J, Mankia K, Emery P, Devine DA. (2017) Periodontal disease and
periodontal bacteria as triggers for rheumatoid arthritis. Best Practice & Research Clinical
Rheumatology, 31(1):19-30.
3) Mankia K et al (2019) Increased periodontal disease in individuals at risk of
inflammatory arthritis. JAMA Network Open. 2(6):e195394.
4) Cheng Z et al (2020) Dysbiosis in the oral microbiomes of anti-CCP positive individuals
at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
5) Cheng Z, Do T, Meade J, Potempa, J, Emery P, Marsh PD, Devine DA.
PPAD Influences Upon pH, Porphyromonas gingivalis Growth And Peptide Metabolism.
#2554 IADR/PER General Session 2018.
6) Schwenzer A et al. (2017) Association of distinct fine specificities of anti-citrullinated
peptide antibodies with elevated immune responses to Prevotella intermedia in a
subgroup of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and periodontitis. Arthritis and
Rheumatology, 69(12):2303-2313.
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