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Engineering fracture resistant bones to improve the welfare of laying hens

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Tarlton
    Prof K Robson-Brown
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Applications are invited for a very exciting project addressing the crucial bioengineering issue of bone fracture, and tackling the most urgent problem of farm animal welfare, by applying state of the art technology in imaging, engineering, biochemistry, and computer modelling.
Bone fracture is a significant health problem in most vertebrates, causing pain, impaired function, and even fatality. In particular, bone breakage in laying hens is a serious health, welfare and economic issue, with an estimated 8 billion hens globally suffering keel bone fractures. How bones respond to mechanical loading is fundamental to understanding fractures. Finite-element analysis (FEA) is a method of mathematical modelling used in engineering to explore interactions between geometry, mechanical properties and loading. FEA has recently been used to estimate the mechanics of biological tissues such as bone, through the use of non-destructive micro-computed tomography (μCT). However, such techniques have not fully accounted for detailed variations in bone composition, nor have they been validated against actual small scale mechanical properties. This study will combine μCT/FEA with analysis of detailed molecular composition and multi-scale biomechanics to mathematically model avian keel bones, both intact and with previous fractures, using (non-)linear elastic fracture mechanics. Topographical analysis will then be used to construct virtual keels to model in-silico the effects of different impacts, changes in shape, composition and previous fractures. This study will synergise with a large current BBSRC funded project mathematically modelling actual fractures in keel bones by ex-vivo impact analysis in real housing conditions using tri-axial accelerometry.
The student will benefit from training by world leading experts in biomechanics, engineering, computed tomography, bone biology, FEA and mathematical modelling, and will develop computational models with a wide range of applications in different bones and across species. The multi-disciplinarity of this project opens up diverse career opportunities in both academia and commercial science.
This project, based at the School of Veterinary Sciences and the Biological Anthropology Group at the University of Bristol, will suit an engineer wishing to apply engineering principles to bone biology, a biologist with a desire to understand the fundamental functionality of bone, or a welfare scientist wishing to apply cutting edge technology in order to benefit animal welfare. Training will be provided in line with the student’s current expertise.

When applying please select ’Veterinary Science’ PhD within the Faculty of Health Sciences.

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