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Using novel AMP-activated protein kinase activating drugs to improve the pancreatic alpha cell response to changes in glucose levels PhD (Funded).


About This PhD Project

Project Description

Supervisors
Dr Craig Beall, University of Exeter
Dr Kate Ellacott, University of Exeter
Prof Noel Morgan, University of Exeter

Location:
University of Exeter, College of Medicine and Health, Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, Exeter. RILD Building, Barrack Road, Exeter. EX2 5DW.

The University of Exeter’s College of Medicine and Health, in partnership Diabetes UK, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in October 2019. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £17,000 for 3 years full-time. The student will be based across the University of Exeter Medical School campuses but primarily based in the RILD building, Barrack Road. A substantial proportion of time will also be spent working at the Streatham Campus.
Project Description:
Title: Using novel AMP-activated protein kinase activating drugs to improve the pancreatic alpha cell response to hypoglycaemia in diabetes.

Project Background: Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) is a problem in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It presents as a series of symptoms including (but not limited to) hunger, anxiety, sweating, palpitations, confusion and dizziness. The symptoms are unpleasant for the sufferer but also come with an increased risk for several other health concerns, including heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, with time, an individual’s awareness of hypoglycaemia can wane, increasing the risk of severe hypoglycaemia which can cause loss of consciousness, coma, brain damage or even death. The aim of this research is to develop a better understanding of why the risk of hypoglycaemia increases with diabetes disease duration. We aim to develop a better understanding of the pancreatic cells that help defend against hypoglycaemia (the alpha cells). Specifically, we want to test whether a new drug can help to protect the hormonal defense mechanism preventing hypoglycaemia and whether this can prevent rats from becoming less aware of hypoglycaemia.

Project and training plans: The candidate will be trained in three cores areas over three years, with increasing complexity. In year one, the candidate will learn aseptic cell culture techniques using islet cell lines. This will be combined with drug treatments, cell signaling studies and physiology. In year two, the candidate will move to using ex vivo primary islets, isolated from source. Again, a large part will be pharmacology combined with hormone measurements and physiology. In year 3, the candidate will be trained in in vivo physiology, including administration of novel drug therapies combined with blood glucose monitoring and behavior tests, to examine hypoglycaemia awareness using rodent models. As this project is funded by Diabetes UK, the candidate will also have the opportunity to attend training days at the Diabetes UK Headquarters in London, usually held once per year.

Conferencing and industry engagement: The candidate will attend one national diabetes conference every year (Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference) and be encouraged to present their data at the earliest opportunity. They will also be encouraged to attend an international conference such as the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions or the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes annual meeting. This will likely be in years 2 or 3. As a large part of this project is working with an industry partner, the candidate will be encouraged to manage the relationship between the University and the industry partner, for example by sharing novel data or requesting and discussion confidential data from the industry partner.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £17,000 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.
The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3 years of full-time study to commence in 1st October 2019. The collaboration with the named project partner is subject to contract. Please note full details of the project partner’s contribution and involvement with the project is still to be confirmed and may change during the course of contract negotiations. Full details will be confirmed at offer stage.

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