PhD studentship in Mechanisms of placental vitamin D handling and prenatal programming of adult obesity

University of Southampton

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Position type:

Full time

03 Jun 2019
31 Jul 2019

Full details:

Reference number: SOU-1146819AF

Applications are invited to apply for a prestigious Gerald Kerkutt Trust/University of Southampton funded 3 year PhD studentship starting in October 2019. The student will be based in the Institute of Developmental Sciences within the Human Development and Health Academic Unit of the Faculty of Medicine (

Low maternal vitamin D levels are associated with reduced fetal growth, increased childhood fat mass and risk of adulthood obesity. We hypothesis that these effects are mediated by altered placental vitamin D handling and vitamin D mediated changes to placental function. Despite being of clear importance for fetal development, the actions of vitamin D within the placenta are not fully understood. 

This project will therefore address the following aims:

1) Quantify the rates of placental vitamin D metabolism and transfer to the fetus.

2) Determine how vitamin D regulates placental mechanisms related to postnatal obesity risk. 

3) Determine which placental markers of vitamin D handling (Aim 1) or regulated placental function (Aim 2) relate to fetal growth and the risk of obesity across the life-course.

This study will involve human placental ex-vivo tissue preparations, trophoblast cell culture, epigenetic analysis and molecular studies on placental tissues from well-characterised pregnancies. 

This work will help us understand fundamental processes in placental biology, as well as the physiological mechanisms that regulate fetal growth.

During the course of the studentship, the successful applicant will be trained in a diverse range of physiological and molecular biology techniques, as well as participate in the faculty’s postgraduate training programme:

Person Specification:

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

Funding information: 

The studentship is funded by the Gerald Kerkutt Trust/University of Southampton and covers tuition fees for UK/EU students and a maintenance grant paid at current BBSRC rates.



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