🕵️‍♂️🔍🚨PHD STUDENT WANTED: Robotic Skin Tester for Systemic Sclerosis

Attention all PhD candidates! Are you looking for a unique and impactful opportunity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field of rare disease? Look no further! We are seeking a highly motivated and dedicated individual to join our team and work on a groundbreaking project in the field of Systemic Sclerosis (SSc).

SSc is a chronic disease characterized by a dysfunction of the immune system and the microcirculation that lead to the fibrosis of skin and internal organs. The skin fibrosis (SF) is the hallmark of the disease; it could be prominent on hands and face or involve most of the body surface, and it could reflect or prelude a potentially life-threatening visceral involvement. SSc approximately affects 20,000 people in the UK only and, with a 5-year relative survival of about 70%, is the most lethal among rheumatic diseases. Nevertheless, since SSC is on average diagnosed in people aged from 30 to 50, it typically affects the full of working age and childbirth potential.

Current assessment of the skin is based on pinching of 17 different areas of the body and observation of the mobility of the cutaneous layers (mRSS – Modified Rodnan Skin Score), with local scores ranging from 0 (Normal) to 3 (Severe) and total individual score from 0 to 51. The limited reliability and reproducibility of this analogic technique contribute to an average diagnostic delay of 5 years and hinder the development of effective therapeutic strategies.

Because of the current unmet needs related to SSc complexity and epidemiology, the SSc economic burden is significant despite its rarity. Disease costs include direct healthcare expenses for the NHS (£5-6,000 for patient-year, £100~120M/year), further costs of many off-label treatments that are often necessary, direct non-healthcare costs and labour productivity losses (up to £12,000 for patient-year, ~£240M/year). Similar costs have been reported in all major European and north American countries. An improvement in patient assessment tools could contribute to improve disease-outcomes and reduce costs.

This is where you come in! The main purpose of the PhD is the design, development and testing of a Robotic Skin Tester to simultaneously measure the mechanical and the electrical properties of the skin for SSc in static and dynamic conditions. With this new tool, we hope to improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease, and reduce costs for both patients and the healthcare system.

As a PhD student on our team, you will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals and receive mentorship that will help you to develop your skills and reach your full potential. Your research will align with the EPSRC Healthcare Technology grand challenges and the NIHR mission of improving the health and wealth of the nation through research.

Don't miss out on this chance to be a part of something meaningful and to further your career in your field. Apply today and help us revolutionize the understanding and assessment of Systemic Sclerosis!

 

PS: in case you are interested in the details, these are the references used in this short abstract: 

  1. Fischer A, Zimovetz E, Ling C, Esser D, Schoof N. Humanistic and cost burden of systemic sclerosis: A review of the literature. Autoimmun Rev. 2017 Nov;16(11):1147-1154. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2017.09.010. Epub 2017 Sep 9. PMID: 28899803. 
  2. Gayle A, Schoof N, Alves M, Clarke D, Raabe C, Das P, Del Galdo F, Maher TM. Healthcare Resource Utilization Among Patients in England with Systemic Sclerosis-Associated Interstitial Lung Disease: A Retrospective Database Analysis. Adv Ther. 2020 May;37(5):2460-2476. doi: 10.1007/s12325-020-01330-0. Epub 2020 Apr 21. PMID: 32319038; PMCID: PMC7467474. 
  3. Herrick AL, Assassi S, Denton CP. Skin involvement in early diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis: an unmet clinical need. Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2022 May;18(5):276-285. doi: 10.1038/s41584-022-00765-9. Epub 2022 Mar 15. PMID: 35292731; PMCID: PMC8922394. 
  4. Kumánovics G, Péntek M, Bae S, Opris D, Khanna D, Furst DE, Czirják L. Assessment of skin involvement in systemic sclerosis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2017 Sep 1;56(suppl_5):v53-v66. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kex202. PMID: 28992173; PMCID: PMC5850338. 
  5. López-Bastida J, Linertová R, Oliva-Moreno J, Serrano-Aguilar P, Posada-de-la-Paz M, Kanavos P, Taruscio D, Schieppati A, Iskrov G, Péntek M, Delgado C, von der Schulenburg JM, Persson U, Chevreul K, Fattore G; BURQOL-RD Research Network. Social/economic costs and health-related quality of life in patients with scleroderma in Europe. Eur J Health Econ. 2016 Apr;17 Suppl 1:109-17. doi: 10.1007/s10198-016-0789-y. Epub 2016 Apr 2. PMID: 27038626. 
  6. Pauling JD, McGrogan A, Snowball J, McHugh NJ. Epidemiology of systemic sclerosis in the UK: an analysis of the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2021 Jun 18;60(6):2688-2696. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keaa680. PMID: 33212504. 
  7. Volkmann ER, Andréasson K, Smith V. Systemic sclerosis. Lancet. 2022 Nov 25:S0140-6736(22)01692-0. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01692-0. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36442487.