PhD Studentship: Novel exercise and nutritional interventions to alleviate inactivity-induced muscu

United Kingdom
Jan 10, 2018
Feb 16, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

Research interests/description of main research theme:

Age-related skeletal muscle loss (termed ‘sarcopenia’) may be partially underpinned by impairments in the muscle response to nutrition [1, 2]. Disuse events (i.e. illness and hospitalization) result in muscle atrophy, through impairments in protein synthesis and, to some degree, protein breakdown [3, 4]. This is particularly relevant given that older adults take ~650 steps/day on hospital wards and have great difficulty recovering muscle mass during rehabilitation training [5-7]. Inactivity may also impair muscle mitochondrial function. Thus, interventions to protect skeletal muscle during disuse events are of paramount importance.

It is difficult to implement dietary strategies to prevent disuse-induced atrophy in the elderly, due to malnutrition [8]. A more feasible approach may be to introduce small nutritional compounds with pharmaceutical properties (termed ‘nutraceuticals’) to enhance muscle anabolic and attenuate catabolic processes [9]. However, nutritional interventions alone may not completely prevent disuse-induced musculoskeletal deterioration [10, 11]. Resistance exercise can effectively maintain muscle mass and function when implemented during disuse events [10, 12]. Unfortunately, for many older individuals, heavy-load exercise is not feasible or safe during disuse events. Thus, there is a clear need to develop feasible loading interventions to protect muscle mass and function during and following disuse events.

Through stable isotope tracer and muscle biopsy techniques, the proposed project will aim to understand the influence of newly developed exercise and nutritional therapies during disuse events on muscle protein synthesis and breakdown, fibre-type morphology, satellite cell content and mitochondrial content/respiration in older individuals. Collectively, therefore, this project provides an innovative approach that should appeal to students interested in skeletal muscle physiology, nutritional biochemistry and exercise conditioning.


Person Specification

Applicants should have a strong background in Exercise Metabolism, and ideally a background in Nutrition and Muscle Physiology. Experience of working in a research setting with older individuals is desirable. They should have a commitment to research in Musculoskeletal Ageing and hold or realistically expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honors Degree in a relevant subject.

How to apply

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Leigh Breen (


Funding Notes

3-year funded studentship through the MRC-ARUK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research (CMAR). Students should have home or EU status: and have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship to be eligible for the full award (tuition fees, research support costs, and a tax-free stipend at the Research Council rate). Applicants who have been 'ordinarily resident' in another EU member state may be eligible for a fees only award. Please see RCUK terms and conditions for further information.

This studentship is full-time and will begin on 1st of October 2018



  1. Smeuninx, B., et al., J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2017. 102(9): p. 3535-3545.
  2. Breen, L. and S.M. Phillips, Nutrition & Metabolism, 2011. 8(1): p. 68.
  3. Breen, L., et al., J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2013. 98(6): p. 2604-12.
  4. Wall, B.T., et al., Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2016. 310(2): p. E137-47.
  5. Suetta, C., et al., J Appl Physiol, 2009. 107(4): p. 1172-80.
  6. McGlory, C., et al., J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2017.
  7. Tanner, R.E., et al., J Physiol, 2015. 593(18): p. 4259-73.
  8. Covinsky, K.E., et al., J Am Geriatr Soc, 1999. 47(5): p. 532-8.
  9. Deane, C.S., et al., Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2017: p. ajpendo 00230 2016.
  10. Devries, M.C., et al., Physiol Rep, 2015. 3(8).
  11. Dirks, M.L., et al., J Nutr, 2014. 144(8): p. 1196-203.
  12. Oates, B.R., et al., Muscle Nerve, 2010. 42(4): p. 539-46.


Similar jobs

Similar jobs