Scottish Government to Work with UWS to Deliver PhD Studentships in Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

The Scottish Government will fund two PhDs in Multiple Sclerosis at UWS, with the University itself funding a further two in this hugely important field. The initiative, which will total over £280,000, will play a key role in developing a better understanding of MS.
Exercise training represents a behavioural approach for managing many of the consequences of MS, yielding important improvements in walking, balance, cognition, fatigue, depression, and quality of life in MS. Despite this, there remain significant limitations regarding the extent and quality of available research, including low numbers of participants, failure to specifically include patients with particular symptoms (e.g. fatigue), studies being underpowered to detect changes in fatigue, and poor levels of reporting of risks of relapse following exercise.

This programme of PhD studentships will aim to address many of the limitations within the current literature base, and support a more robust analysis of exercise training interventions as a disease modifying therapy in MS.

Dr Nicholas Sculthorpe of the University’s Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science is the lead academic for these PhD studentships. The project team also comprises Professor Julien Baker, Director of the Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science, and Professor Jean Rankin of the University’s School of Health, Nursing and Midwifery. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with Dr Linda Renfrew, Consultant physiotherapist for MS at the Douglas Grant Rehabilitation Unit, part of the NHS Ayrshire and Arran rehabilitation service. Dr Sculthorpe said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding from the Scottish Government for these PhD Studentships and to be advancing our important work in the field of Multiple Sclerosis.

“We are delighted to have secured this funding from the Scottish Government for these PhD Studentships and to be advancing our important work in the field of Multiple Sclerosis. The academic expertise at UWS, coupled with the collaboration of the Douglas Grant Rehabilitation Unit, represents an excellent opportunity to support evidence-based treatments for MS to help patients achieve their fullest physical, psychological and social potential.”

The UWS academic team who are leading this project have a strong record of PhD supervision with over 50 successful completions between them, and over 100 peer review publications in the area of exercise therapy, MS and family health.

This work is part of a wider Scottish initiative, supported by the Scottish Government, to deliver PhD studentships in neurological conditions. In addition to the PhD studentships at UWS, the Scottish Government is funding a further six at institutions across Scotland.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said:

“Once again, Scotland is leading the way in clinical research and innovation. I look forward to hearing about the progress the students make, and how their work might benefit patients across Scotland and around the world.”
Morna Simpkins, Director of MS Society Scotland said:

“We welcome this commitment from the Scottish Government to research into Multiple Sclerosis. This new PhD funding will help us gain a better understanding of the neurological condition that affects over 11,000 people in Scotland. MS is an unpredictable condition that can affect the way we feel, think and see. It is a really exciting time for research into MS, and the MS Society is delighted to see that Scotland will remain an essential part of the global network coming together to tackle MS.”

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