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Funded PhD Opportunity

Blue whiting protein hydrolysates for management of sarcopenia

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

Age-related loss of muscle mass and function is common in the elderly and can lead to disability, loss of independence and increased risk of death. Sarcopenia is a key contributor to frailty and increased dependency in older adults (Cruz Jentoft et al., 2010) and thus is highly prevalent among institutionalized older adults (Bravo-Jose et al., 2018). Diet, specifically protein, has a role in the prevention and treatment of muscle loss in the older adult population nevertheless there is paucity of research on the effect of protein supplementation on lean body mass and other clinical outcomes in older adults in residential care (Donaldson et al., 2019) where the prevalence of muscle loss and weakness is reported to be high (Senior et al, 2015; Landi et al, 2012). Protein supplementation, in combination with exercise or additional nutritional supplements, has been shown to exert beneficial effects on muscle in community dwelling sarcopenic older adults (Kim et al., 2012, Bauer et al., 2015), albeit the effects of protein supplements alone have not been extensively studied in sarcopenic individuals. Muscle protein synthesis is influenced by both the amount and type of protein consumed (Pennings et al., 2011, Devries and Phillips, 2015).

The proposed PhD project aims to investigate the efficacy of a novel protein hydrolysate derived from the pelagic fish, blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou), which to date has predominantly been used to produce protein hydrolysates for the feed industry. The proposed PhD project aims to evaluate the potential of a selected blue whiting protein hydrolysate (BWPH) to beneficially modulate markers of sarcopenia in free living community dwelling older adults (study 2) and older adults residing in care homes (study 3).

Study 1 Aim: A systematic review will be undertaken to investigate the efficacy of different protein sources on the risk of sarcopenia.

Study 2: Aim: To investigate the effect of blue whiting protein on whole body lean mass tissue and measures of muscle strength and functionality in free living community dwelling older adults.

Study 3:  Aim:  To investigate the effect of BWPH supplementation on whole body lean mass tissue and measures of muscle strength and functionality in older adults in care homes.

Design used for study 2 and 3

A double blind randomised parallel human intervention trial will be undertaken at UU to investigate the impact of consuming the BWPH on measures of muscle mass and function. The primary outcome of the study will be to measure differences in lean tissue mass between participants consuming BWPH and the control. Secondary measures will investigate changes in muscle functionality through the use of hand grip strength, ‘Timed get up and go’ test and 6 minute walk test. The impact of treatment on quality of life will also be investigated using the validated Short Form Health Survey version 2 (SF-36v2). Blood measures associated with sarcopenia (serum vitamin D status, proinflammatory cytokine profile) will be quantified and basic measures of general health will be assessed (full lipid profile as well as liver and kidney function tests). A four day weight food diary will be collected at baseline to determine habitual protein intake differences between the treatment groups. The recent physical activity questionnaire (RPAQ) will be complete at baseline and postintervention to determine each participant’s level of physical activity. A power calculation was based on data from Norton et al. (2015) in which a lean tissue mass difference of 0.61 kg between the protein group and placebo group with a 1.4 kg standard deviation (based on Borsheim et al. 2008) would require a minimum sample size of 38 participants per group. A final sample size of 75 per treatment group was selected to ensure sufficient sample size given the reported high dropout rate reported in previous studies (>50%) (Norton et al. 2015).


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.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Kieran O'Donnell

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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Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

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 William Crowe

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


Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
9 to 20 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Philip Allsopp


Other supervisors

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