The effect of low protein diet on the development of the musculoskeletal system


Age-related sarcopenia is characterised by reduction in the number of myofibres and motor neurons and an additional weakening of the remaining fibres, causing reduction in muscle mass and function. Studies associate these characteristics with influences during early stages of development, including maternal malnutrition. The project will use an established model of reduced protein intake (8% protein) in mice to determine the effect of in utero and/or post-natally on musculoskeletal development of the offspring. We hypothesise that a reduction in protein intake during fetal and early neonatal life results in altered neuromuscular development and this ultimately adversely influences whether older individuals can maintain good neuromuscular function as they age. We anticipate that the outcomes of this study will lead to a greater understanding of the role that diet plays on the processes underlying the loss of muscle mass and musculoskeletal function in older individuals and hence to the logical development of interventions to correct these processes.

The student will receive a comprehensive research training in neuromuscular physiology including exposure to state-of-the-art confocal imaging, molecular approaches (e.g. PCR, SDS-PAGE), proteomics, metabolomics etc. Oxidative stress measurements will also be performed.

The Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment we emphasize the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives. 

Enquiries to: Dr Aphrodite Vasilaki (

To apply:  please send your CV and a covering letter to Dr Aphrodite Vasilaki with a copy to


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Self-funded project

No institutional funding for the student stipend or fees for this studentship is available and a research bench fee of £10,000 p.a. will levied as a contribution to laboratory consumables and expenses.



1) Chen JH, Martin-Gronert MS, Tarry-Adkins J & Ozanne SE. (2009). Maternal protein restriction affects postnatal growth and the expression of key proteins involved in lifespan regulation in mice. PloS one 4, e4950.

2) Vasilaki A.,  Pollock N., Giakoumaki I., Goljanek-Whysall K., Sakellariou G.K., Kayani, A.C., Pearson T., Jackson M.J. & McArdle A (2016). The effect of lengthening contractions on neuromuscular junction structure in adult and old mice. Age (Dordr). 38(4):259-272.

3) Williams E.L., Harvey N.C., Dennison E.M., Edwards C.C. & Cooper C. (2009).  Maternal nutrition and bone health in the offspring. Int. J. Clin. Rheumatol. 4(2): 133–145.