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PhD Studentship: Pectin supplementation to reduce gut and systemic inflammation and improve liver, muscle and gastrointestinal outcomes.


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Tuesday 30 April 2024
Reference:  MED1996

Project Description:

A quarter of the world's population has metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease, (which used to be known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). It is a major cause of liver damage, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases. As it gets worse, scarring in the liver, leaky gut, and inflammation can happen, which can cause muscle loss and wasting. This is called sarcopenia, and it happens when there is systemic inflammation and changes in protein metabolism. It makes people's health and strength worse overall. Colorectal cancer patients also lose significant amounts of mass and have a high levels of inflammation, both of which are linked to worse long-term health and survival.

Scarring and inflammation in the liver can be reversed by working out and losing 10% of your body weight, but these goals are hard to reach and keep up. There are other approaches that are more practical for people and cost less to run as a treatment programme. These include dietary supplements.

Pectins are polysaccharides that are found in plants and are often added to foods to make them thicker. New research has shown that they can reduce inflammation. They do their job by stopping the TLR2 immune pathway. It is also known that animals that don't have TLR2 do not get liver scarring  liver inflammation, or metabolic syndrome, and are protected from severe muscle loss.

We have done studies on healthy volunteers and found that taking 15-20g of pectin every day lowers inflammation and gut permeability by a large amount, with no negative effects.

This study will look into what happens to gut permeability, liver disease, inflammation, and muscle mass when people with metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease take pectin supplements. It will also look into the benefits of giving pectin supplements to people who are waiting for colorectal surgery because it might improve their health state before and after surgery.

This research project will use cutting-edge magnetic resonance imaging and laboratory analyses to measure liver fat and scarring, leaky gut and disease indicators in patients and also assess patient’s muscle and general health and well-being.

The successful candidate will be able to learn cutting-edge biomedical skills and gain hands-on experience in clinical research. They will also be able to improve their analytical skills and techniques by working with people from different fields and using the experts at the Nottingham NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (  

The student will be able to work within well-funded, productive and vibrant research groups. They will interreact with a variety of fundamental, translational, and industry-led projects, as well as interacting with partners across School of Physics, Life Sciences and Medicine and in the NHS.

The student will be registered within the School of Medicine.

Funding notes:

The three-year studentship covers tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.


Prof Guru Aithal  (Professor of Hepatology, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham) 

Dr Jane Grove (Assistant Professor in Translational Medical Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham) 

Dr Katie Rollins (Associate Professor in Colorectal Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham

Prof Ana Valdes  (Professor in Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham) 

Informal inquiries can be made to:

Due to funding requirements, only applications from domestic students will be accepted.

Application Details: To apply for this PhD opportunity, please submit the following documents to

· Cover Letter outlining your research interests and motivation to pursue this project.

· Curriculum Vitae detailing your academic background, research experience and relevant skills.

Entry Requirements:

At least a 2.1 Honours degree in Pharmacy, Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, Bioengineering or any related field.

Start Date: July  2024

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