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Functional Evaluation of the Meniscus and Meniscus Replacement using MRI

PGR-P-765

Key facts

Type of research degree
PhD
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Funding
Funded
Source of funding
Doctoral training partnership
Supervisors
Professor Philip Conaghan and Professor Ruth Wilcox
Additional supervisors
Marlène Mengoni, Nagitha Wijayathunga
Schools
School of Mechanical Engineering
Research groups/institutes
Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The aim of this PhD study is to develop new methods for examining the human knee joint under load using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The particular focus is on the meniscus, a fibrous horseshoe-shaped soft tissue that sits between the two cartilage surfaces of the knee joint. The techniques developed will be used to evaluate the mechanical performance of meniscus replacements, in comparison to the natural healthy joint. Treatment for musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis cost the NHS more than &pound;5 billion per year. The Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (IMBE) at the University of Leeds is leading the development and testing of new treatments for knee osteoarthritis. Through a &pound;4million EPSRC-funded Programme Grant, we are developing novel methods for testing early-stage treatments in a whole natural knee in vitro model. The successful candidate will join a multidisciplinary team involved in this research, which includes leading engineers, clinicians, biologists and chemists. The main objectives of the PhD will be to: 1. develop a novel loading system that can be used to apply physiological loading states to cadaveric knees within an MRI machine; 2. develop the necessary image analysis tools to be able to characterise the meniscal deformations under different loading states; 3 demonstrate the results are clinically relevant by making comparison to lower resolution images taken using an upright MRI scanner as part of an ongoing clinical study in Leeds; and 4. evaluate the performance of the natural meniscus and meniscus grafts under different patient and surgical variables. The successful candidate should have experience in mechanical engineering design and testing, be competent at programming, and ideally have some experience of image analysis. During the project, you will be expected to prepare and test human cadaveric tissue specimens, so previous experience in handling either human or animal tissue would be beneficial, but is not essential. Full training will be provided on all laboratory methods and the associated health and safety requirements. You will need to be organised and diligent in keeping good laboratory records. There will be opportunities to be involved in wider activities organised by the IMBE, including public and patient engagement events, and bespoke training for careers in the medtech sector. You will be encouraged to developed wider skills through training provided by the University and through opportunities to participate in international conferences or laboratory visits.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>The knee is the most common site for osteoarthritis, affecting over 4 million people in the UK alone. Meniscal injuries are common (&gt;850,000 cases/year in US); both damage and degeneration of the meniscus are linked to the onset and progression of osteoarthritis. A number of partial and total meniscus replacements have been developed, but clinical outcomes are variable, likely because of differences in both patient anatomy and surgical technique.</p> <p>The Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (IMBE) at the University of Leeds is a world-renowned medical engineering research centre which specialises in research and translation of medical technologies that promote &rsquo;50 active years after 50&rsquo;. We are leading the development and testing of new treatments for knee osteoarthritis through a &pound;4million EPSRC-funded Programme Grant. Through the programme, we are developing novel methods for testing early-stage treatments in a whole natural knee <em>in vitro</em> model. In parallel, grafts have been developed using a Leeds-patented decellularisation processes for use in meniscus replacement or repair. Currently, it is not possible to fully visualise the behaviour of either the natural meniscus or an artificial graft in our laboratory knee models, which limits our understanding of how changes in meniscus properties or surgical technique will affect the outcome of the treatment. This project will involve developing a new testing system that can fit inside an MRI machine to load and image cadaveric knee joints, and using image processing methods to evaluate the resulting 3D scans. The main objectives are:</p> <p style="margin-left: 48px;">1. To develop a novel loading system that can be used to apply physiological loading states to cadaveric knees within an MRI machine. <em>This work will utilise access to human tissue and the 3T MRI at Chapel Allerton Hospital provided through our EPSRC Programme Grant</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 48px;">2. To develop the necessary image analysis tools to be able to characterise the meniscal deformations under different loading states. <em>This work will use access to bespoke image processing software packages and expertise available in the IMBE. </em></p> <p style="margin-left: 48px;">3. To demonstrate the results are clinically relevant by making comparison to lower resolution images taken using an upright MRI scanner as part of an ongoing clinical study in Leeds. <em>Unique access to clinical data from a parallel project will provide validation that the methods developed do apply representative loads and that the results are clinically relevant.</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 48px;">4. To evaluate the performance in terms of the contact pressures and distributions of the natural meniscus and decellularised meniscus grafts under different patient and surgical variables<em>. This step will bring together methods that have been developed through our EPSRC-funded Programme Grant to classify knee shape and tissue properties from MRI data, along with evidence from our ongoing in vitro simulator studies and computational models relating meniscus to cartilage damage.</em></p> <p>As a PhD student within the IMBE, you will work in a vibrant, multidisciplinary group; we have large shared offices and social space, as well as extensive grade II laboratory facilities. There will be opportunities to become involved in a variety of patient and public engagement activities, as well as group training and social events. Groups of researchers working on aligned projects or using similar methods meet regularly to share ideas and best practice, and we encourage collegiate working. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;We will support your long term career ambitions through bespoke training and encourage external secondments, laboratory visits or participation at international conferences.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.leeds.ac.uk/rsa/prospective_students/apply/I_want_to_apply.html">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &lsquo;Functional Evaluation of the Meniscus and Meniscus Replacement using MRI&rsquo; as well as <span style="color:black; font-family:&quot;Calibri&quot;,sans-serif; font-size:11pt; line-height:106%; margin:0px"><a href="https://eps.leeds.ac.uk/staff/192/Professor_Ruth_Wilcox"><font color="#0563c1">Ruth Wilcox</font></a></span> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>A highly competitive School of Mechanical Engineering/EPSRC Studentship Award offering Academic Fee at Home/EU Fee rate, plus Maintenance of &pound;15,285 per year for 3.5 years. The School of Mechanical Engineering/EPSRC Studentship Award is Competition-Funded and the funding is linked to&nbsp;this specific EPSRC Scholarship Award project. Note to EU Candidates: To be eligible for the full award of fees and maintenance, you must be have residency in the UK for 3 or more years. If you do not have 3 years residency in the UK, you may be eligible for a Fee Only award.</p> <p>Please note that International applicants are not eligible to apply for this funding.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information regarding your application,&nbsp;please contact Doctoral College Admissions: e: <a href="mailto:phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk">phd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk</a>, t: + 44 (0) 113 343 5057</p> <p>For further information regarding the project, please contact Professor Ruth Wilcox: e: <a href="mailto:EMAIL@leeds.ac.uk">r.k.wilcox@leeds.ac.uk</a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 7980.</p>


<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>