Summary

Hypertension affects an estimated 15% of pregnancies (National Health Service, 2015) and can lead to more serious hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction (Srinivas et al., 2009). Hypertensive disorders during pregnancy carry risks for both the pregnant woman and the fetus. Currently, hypertension in pregnancy is treated with blood pressure medication, which not only is very costly for health systems, but is also associated with adverse side effects in pregnancy that can be detrimental to the fetus (Rosenthal and Oparil, 2002). Thus, the identification of alternative treatments and prevention strategies for hypertension would be hugely advantageous to maternal and fetal health.

Low maternal folate status has been associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including gestational hypertension, while some randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that improved folate status may help to prevent these conditions (Kim et al., 2014). Inconsistencies in the evidence could partly be explained by genetic differences among populations. Emerging evidence from this centre and elsewhere have associated homozygosity for the common C677T polymorphism, the TT genotype, in the gene encoding the  folate-metabolising enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) with hypertension in non-pregnant adults (Newton-Cheh et al., 2009; Horigan et al., 2010; Wilson et al., 2012; Wilson et al., 2013). According to unpublished research from our group, women with the TT genotype in combination with a low riboflavin biomarker status will enter pregnancy with a higher blood pressure compared to CC women and are at an increased risk of developing hypertension (O’Sullivan et al.; under review).

This MRes project builds on this evidence with an overall aim will be to investigate the role of folate and related B vitamins on blood pressure during pregnancy in relation to the MTHFR 677TT genotype and will involve conducting an RCT in a cohort of pregnant women to optimise B vitamin status with the potential to influence blood pressure, and in turn, prevent hypertension in women with the TT genotype. The project will form part of the ongoing OptiPREG study (Optimal nutrition for prevention of hypertension using a personalised approach).

Methods

Women with a singleton pregnancy who are at the start of the second trimester of pregnancy will be recruited from antenatal clinics in Letterkenny General Hospital and will be screened for MTHFR genotype.

Those with the TT genotype and age-matched CT pregnant women will be assigned to a double-blinded, RCT with B vitamin supplementation until the end of their pregnancy.

Phlebotomy training will be provided and the student will gain experience in running a human trial, recording, storing and analysing results using appropriate statistical methods and in the use of a range of relevant laboratory measures (related to B vitamin status).

The student will be required to work closely with the wider OptiPREG team and own or have access to a vehicle.

See Niche for more information

Additional Criteria

  • Must own or have access to a vehicle and hold a current clean driver’s licence.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.

This project is funded by: DSM Nutritional Products

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home and EU rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 for one year.



The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

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Kamin Hau - PhD in Biomedical Sciences


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My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Profile picture of Sarah Craig

I completed my undergraduate studies at Ulster University, where I graduated in 2017 with first class honours in Biomedical Science with a Diploma in Professional Practice . I joined the Diabetes Research group as a PhD researcher in September 2017 and completed my PhD studies in June 2020.I am proud to say I not only completed my PhD studies within 3 years, but also became the World Champion (with a perfect score!) in Irish Dance during my PhD studies. My favourite memory was the opportunity to present my PhD work at the EASD conference in 2019. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be to enjoy every single minute as the time flies in. I really would do another PhD!

Sarah Craig - PhD in Biomedical Sciences


Profile picture of Natalie Klempel

I completed my undergraduate studies in America at Texas Woman’s University where I majored in Kinesiology. I then moved to Scotland to successfully complete my Masters with Merit in Human Anatomy at the University of Dundee.My proudest moment was when I passed my viva! My favourite memory was …the dissections. I’ll never forget the friends I made and the good times we had together. I couldn’t have got through this without the support of my family, friends, lab colleagues, supervisors, and my boyfriend. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be to write up after every experiment, keep a lot of back up copies of the work, and to enjoy the experience.

Natalie Klempel - PhD in Biomedical Sciences


Profile picture of Poonam Singh Nigam

I joined Ulster university in Jan 1990 after completing Postdoctoral research in Germany (1986-88) and PhD in India (1985). DSc degree in Applied Microbial-Biotechnology has been awarded after the evaluation of my thesis based on Research, Publication & related activities, completed as a research-active academic member of staff (1990-2019). DSc thesis summarised my scientific outputs and contributions (183 research papers, 3 biotechnology reference-books, 43 research-informed book-chapters, 26 research-informed review-articles, 90 conference-abstracts,1 European Patent and 2 Technology-transfers; Supervision of National & International researchers-18 Postdoctoral/Exchange and 12 PhD; and affiliations as Examiner of 58 PhD researchers globally, and Fellow & Member of nine scientific & academic societies.My message to all researchers is that "Chase your Aspirations and Never Give up". I couldn’t have got through my long academic & Professional journey without

Poonam Singh Nigam - DSc in Biomedical Sciences


Profile picture of Karl Smith

I started my PhD after I completed my undergraduate in Biology at Ulster University in 2016, with a dissertation project that focused on genetic variations in bacterial species. I continued using some of these techniques in my doctoral research, which primarily involved the investigation and development of mass spectrometry imaging in vitamin D treated prostate cancer, looking at the metabolic and genetic variations upon treatment. I worked with international collaborators at the University of Edinburgh and Maastricht University, where I got to learn and develop mass spectrometry techniques that have not previously been carried out in Northern Ireland. I now work as a postdoctoral researcher at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where I am helping to develop and implement a mass spectrometry imaging facility for users across the world with the super powerful 21T FT-ICR mass spectrometer.A PhD is a demanding process but when

Karl Smith - PhD in Biomedical Sciences


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Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe


Profile picture of Ryan Kelsey

I graduated Ulster University in 2016 with a degree in Biomedical Science with DPP (Pathology). I was then offered a PhD studentship with Dr Catriona Kelly and Professor Neville McClenaghan at CTRIC which I started in September 2016. My PhD explored the pathophysiology of Cystic Fibrosis-Related Diabetes, the most common co-morbidity associated with Cystic Fibrosis.My proudest moment was undoubtedly passing my Viva (via Skype!), but I was also proud to be given the opportunity to present my work at the UK Cystic Fibrosis Trust Conference in 2018. Through this conference, I was able to meet with people with CF and the challenges they face which was important reminder that the research I was doing mattered. I couldn't have got through this without the unwavering support of my family, who were always there for me in the good times and the bad. I am also extremely grateful for the support and mentorship of my supervisors Dr Catriona Kelly, Professor Neville McClenaghan and Dr Dawood Khan

Ryan Kelsey - PhD in Biomedical Sciences


Profile picture of Ahmed Abuelhana

My proudest moment was when I knew the possibility of the full transfer of my PhD project to Ulster University, the University which I loved and started my first steps towards my PhD in, and also being a PhD graduate from one of the highly reputable universities such as Ulster is a big thing which I should always be proud of. I think there is no that word that can ever express my deepest thanks and sincere appreciation to my supervisor Professor Kathryn Burnett for her ideal supervision, valuable guidance, encouragement, generous help and ultimate support throughout my PhD project. I have been really lucky to have her as a supervisor. Also my deepest gratitude to Mr Linden Ashfield, Principal Clinical Pharmacist, Antrim Area Hospital (NHSCT) for his help and endless support throughout the whole research project. Also, I could not have got through this without the support of my beloved family (my father ”Sayed”, my mother ”Gamila”, my wife “Nermeen”

Ahmed Abuelhana - PhD in Biomedical Sciences


Profile picture of Ryan Lafferty

I graduated from Queen's University Belfast with a Master's in pharmacy in 2014 and subsequently began working as a community pharmacist in the Greater Belfast area. My career began to take an unusual turn when I got involved with a small startup company who developed a novel blood glucose monitor for diabetic patients. From here, my interest in diabetes was piqued and I applied for a PhD project (somewhat optimistically!) in the Diabetes Research Group at Ulster. Nearly four years later, I'm still there working as a postdoctoral researcher. Not bad considering I never thought I had a chance of getting a PhD spot!My time within the DRG has been, and still is, fantastic. I've made life-long friends (and surprisingly few enemies!) who have been patient, helpful and a joy to collaborate with. I couldn't have got through it without them (you know who you are). Likewise, the guidance from my supervisors, Prof. Peter Flatt and Dr. Nigel Irwin, has been invaluable. I'm probably most proud of

Ryan Lafferty - PhD in Biomedical Sciences