PhD Studentship: Pregnancy Vitamin D Supplementation and Offspring Musculoskeletal Health: Deepening the Understanding of how to Deliver Personalised Medicine

University of Southampton

Project Title: 

Pregnancy vitamin D supplementation and offspring musculoskeletal health: Deepening the understanding of how to deliver personalised medicine

Main Supervisor: Professor Nicholas C Harvey

Other members of the supervisory team:  Dr Rebecca Moon

Duration of the award:  Four years full-time

Start date:  01/10/2023

Project description:

Recent evidence suggests that vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy has benefits for maternal and offspring health. This project will use novel and existing data (blood biomarker, genetic and epigenetic data together with detailed clinical assessments of bone density and microarchitecture) to establish methods of personalising pregnancy vitamin D supplementation to optimise offspring musculoskeletal development. 

The MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre (University of Southampton) is a world-leading research centre for musculoskeletal lifecourse epidemiology and early life programming.  Using the internationally unique MAVIDOS randomised controlled trial, we have demonstrated that pregnancy vitamin D supplementation increases offspring bone mass at age 4 years.  Detailed assessment of the children at 6-7 years including dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) and high resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT; virtual bone biopsy) has been undertaken.

In the UK, it is currently recommended that all women take vitamin D during pregnancy, but routine use of supplementation is low. Personalised approaches to medicine include both establishing characteristics which may direct the need for dose stratification and understanding current barriers to the use of supplementation. 

The specific aims of this project will be to

  • assess the effect of pregnancy vitamin D supplementation on growth in utero and during early childhood, and on indices of bone microarchitecture at 6-7 years of age
  • investigate whether these relationships are modified by clinical, genetic or epigenetic factors
  • establish characteristics and barriers associated with the uptake of vitamin D supplementation among pregnant women that may inform targeted approaches to public health messages. 
  • The project will both capitalise on existing data and allow the candidate to develop a new study to understand current pregnancy supplementation use.  The candidate will gain skills in study design and execution, statistical methods, scientific writing, and presentation. They will develop specific understanding of musculoskeletal phenotypic methods such as DXA and HRpQCT, together with the knowledge and skills necessary to incorporate the existing genetic and epigenetic markers into the analyses.

    The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

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

    Funding information:
    Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK applicants.  This PhD studentship is funded for four years and three years of fees by NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.  Amount of stipend £18,154.00 plus fees at UK residency rate only

    Administrative contact and how to apply:

    Please complete the University’s online application form, which you can find at

    You should enter as your proposed supervisor as Professor Nicholas C Harvey. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

    Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Dr Rebecca Moon ([email protected] ).

    Closing date:  Friday, 26th May 2023

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