Studying the effects of a nutritional intervention on inflammageing, health, cognition and physical activity in senior cats

Description

The Royal Canin Feline Healthy Ageing Clinic is an initiative that aims to promote the health and wellbeing of older cats.  To date, over 200 cats have been recruited, and return every 6-12 months for monitoring of a range of clinical parameters, continuing until the end of the cat’s natural lifespan.  Assessments include regular health checks and various clinical assessments including quality of life, photography, dental assessment, muscle ultrasound, gait analysis, and a physical activity check.  Blood, urine and faeces are also regularly collected for health screening, with surplus material being sorted in a biobank.

Recently, the initial outcomes of this cohort have been described (https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2022.859041).  In ongoing work, we are further defining the ageing process using epidemiological and clinical data, in conjunction with measurement of various biomarkers.  This PhD project will build on the current work by looking at the impact of  diet on inflammageing, cognition and health.

The project will involve designing and running a randomised clinical trial to determine the effects of a diet on the inflammageing process, cognition and health in senior cats.  Cats will be recruited through the Royal Canin Healthy Ageing Clinic and their health, quality of life, cognition and activity measured.  Quality of life and cognition will be assessed using questionnaires, whilst physical activity will be assessed by accelerometer.  Surplus serum (from serum biochemical analysis) will be used to measure serotonin (and other metabolites of importance), whilst faecal samples will also be collected for microbiome analyses.  Cats will then be randomised to receive either the test diet or a control diet.  Health, quality of life, cognition, physical activity and microbiome changes will be monitored during and after the intervention.

The successful student will be a qualified veterinary surgeon (either MRCVS or eligible) and will use their existing veterinary experience to assist with clinical monitoring of the cohort.  They will receive training in epidemiology, statistics and relevant laboratory techniques.

PhD objectives:

O1. Monitor cats attending the Royal Canin Healthy Ageing Clinic, including those enrolled for the purposes of this study.

  1. Design, implement and monitor a randomised clinical trial to determine the effect of a nutritional intervention on the health of senior cats.
  2. Performing clinical and health-based measurements on cats including blood sampling, quality of life and cognition assessments and activity monitoring.
  1. Collect clinical samples (serum, urine, faeces), ensure their safe storage and processing, and co-ordinate their analysis, including performing laboratory analyses as required (e.g., serotonin and metabolite measurements).

O3. Undertake statistical and mathematical analysis of results in interpret findings.

The Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences 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

please send your CV and a covering letter to Alex German (ajgerman@liverpool.ac.uk) with a copy to ilcamspgradmin@liverpool.ac.uk

Alex German

Institute of Life Course & Medical Sciences and School of Veterinary Science

Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, University of Liverpool

 Leahurst Campus, Chester High Road, Neston, Wirral, CH64 7TE

Tel: +44 151 795 6204.  Email: ajgerman@liverpool.ac.uk

Availability

Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The funding is through a grant from Royal Canin for full-time VETERINARY SURGEON (MRCVS or MRCVS-eligible) to undertake a 3-year PhD. The stipend is tax-free. Although no laboratory skills are required, they would be beneficial. This may be from studentships undertaken whilst at an undergraduate, through an intercalation degree or industry.

 

Supervisors

References

Dowgray N, Pinchbeck G, Eyre K, Biourge V, Comerford E, German AJ. Aging in Cats: Owner Observations and Clinical Finding in 206 Mature Cats at Enrolment to the Cat Prospective Aging and Welfare Study. Front Vet Sci. 2022 Apr 4;9:859041. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.859041

Dowgray NJ (20210 An Epidemiological, clinical and biomechanical study in to age related changes in 206 middle-aged cats: the CatPAW study.  PhD Thesis, University of Liverpool, UK.