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Funded PhD Opportunity

Novel fatty acid receptors in islet cells as therapeutic targets for diabetes

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically during recent decades and there is an urgent need to develop new approaches for disease treatment. In recent years, therapies that target the actions of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) which stimulate insulin secretion through activation of beta cell G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) have been successful. This has resulted in substantial interest in targeting other islet GPCRs for diabetic therapies [1-3]. There is an increasing need for new pharmaceutical therapies which preserve beta cell function, decrease weight gain and represent a low risk of hypoglycaemia in diabetes treatment. GPCRs have become the target of approximately 50% of recently developed pharmaceutical agents. Our published work demonstrates that GPCRs activated by endogenous and synthetic agonists in islets, are co-localised with insulin on islet beta cells, and exhibit insulinotropic and glucose lowering activity [4-9].

This research project represents an important step in the validation of these islet targets for improved diabetes treatment and care. The multi-faceted research expertise and vision of the Diabetes Research Group coupled with a highly productive team of internationally recognized scientists offers a strong foundation for studentship training.

This studentship will investigate the biological activation of novel GPCRs as therapeutic targets for type 2 diabetes treatment and aims to:

(i)Determine the regulatory role of novel GPCRs on pancreatic function and explore intracellular signalling events activated by GPCRs.

(ii)Investigate GPCR gene knockout using CRISPR/Cas9 (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing and analyse the role of GPCRs in intestinal cell physiology and hormone secretion.

(iii)Determine the metabolic and beneficial effects of GPCR agonist therapies in type 2 diabetes and related disorders in vivo.

The worldwide increase in the incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes demands the development of new drugs for safe and effective treatment, limiting the progression to long-term diabetic complications. Targeting G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) may be used to counteract defective insulin secretion, low beta cell mass and insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes and related disorders.

References:

1.Moran BM, Flatt PR, McKillop AM. (2016) Acta Diabetol. 53(2):177-88.

2.Moran BM, McKillop AM, O'Harte FPM. (2016). Curr Opin Pharmacol. 31:57-62.

3.Ahren B. (2009). Nature Reviews 8: 369-385.

4.McCloskey AG, Miskelly MG, Flatt PR, McKillop AM. Eur J Pharm Sci. 142: 105104 doi: 10.1016/j.ejps.2019.105104. [Epub ahead of print].

5.McKillop AM, Moran BM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Flatt PR. (2013). Br J Pharmacol 170(5):978-90.

6.McKillop AM, Moran BM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Gormley NM, Flatt PR. (2016) Diabetologia 59(12):2674-2685.

7.Moran BM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Flatt PR, McKillop AM. (2014). Biological Chemistry 395:453-64.

8.Moran BM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Flatt PR, McKillop AM. (2014). Diabetes Obes Metab. 16:1128-39. 9.Moran BM, Abdel-Wahab YH, Vasu S, Flatt PR, McKillop AM. (2016) Acta Diabetol 53(2):279-93.


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
  • 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

Professor Aine McKillop


Other supervisors

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