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Vacancy PhD Timing of lifestyle factors

NUTRIM-Dept. of Nutrition and Movement Sciences is looking for a (bio)medical researcher (PhD-candidate; 1,0fte) for a clinical trial on 24h rhythmicity of metabolism and glycemic control

Job position:
PhD (MD) student positions (1.0 fte)

Type 2 diabetes is a severe chronic disease urgently needing new treatment options. Within our translational research group (www.dmrg.nl), embedded in the department of Nutrition and Movement Sciences at Maastricht University, we perform human clinical and experimental trials to unravel the etiology of type 2 diabetes. We have special interest in human skeletal muscle metabolism and we apply whole-body, tissue and cellular approaches to study mechanisms that lead to the development of skeletal muscle insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus. To this end, Maastricht University has unique facilities to perform human translational studies (Metabolic Research Unit Maastricht, MRUM), which includes clamp facilities, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and whole body respiration chambers.

Project description:
Recently, our 24-hour culture has been identified as another lifestyle factor that can cause type 2 diabetes (T2D). Technological and societal advances, such as artificial lighting and digital screens – leading to light exposure that is too dim during the day and too bright during the evening –, shift work, time zone transfers, variable sleep timing and round-the-clock food availability disrupt our intrinsic and evolutionarily preserved 24-hour rhythms resulting in a desynchronization between light cues and behavior cues to our circadian system. This mistiming of cues, also referred to as circadian misalignment is now thought to be a major contributor to the current metabolic health crisis with increasing rates of obesity and T2D.

In this context, we have previously demonstrated a significant diurnal rhythmicity in whole body resting energy expenditure, substrate selection and mitochondrial respiration in healthy young men (van Moorsel et al. Mol Metab, 2016). Recently,  we found that this diurnal oscillation in mitochondrial respiration and substrate oxidation is completely absent in pre-diabetes volunteers (Wefers et al. Mol Metab, 2020, underscoring the relevance of this 24h rhythmicity in metabolism. 

We believe that appropriate timing of behavioural interventions, to enhance daily rhythmicity of the circadian timing system, holds great promise to improve metabolic health and glucose homeostasis and may be a novel strategy in the prevention and treatment of T2D. In the current project, we aim to improve 24-hour rhythmicity of metabolism in insulin resistant men and women by appropriate timing of a) exercise and b) food intake and to assess its effect on metabolic health. 

Job description:
We are looking for a highly self-motivated Msc student with a degree in Medicine or Biomedical Sciences who is looking for an ambitious PhD project. The PhD student will be involved in relatively small-scale human intervention trials, in which she/he will perform a thorough characterization of 24h muscle metabolism and insulin sensitivity after timed food intake and timed exercise (training). For this, we will make use of techniques such as indirect calorimetry, hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. In addition, we will take muscle biopsies to allow for more in-depth molecular analyses. A strong (international) research group and -network is available to aid in the execution of the project and to receive additional training. Due to its ‘round-the-clock’ nature, the project is not compatible with a 9-to-5 mentality and candidates should be willing to work outside regular office hours.

MSc in Medicine, Biomedical Sciences or equivalent, with demonstrated affinity and/or experience with human intervention research. A degree as medical doctor (MD) is a strong advantage. Good communication and organizational skills are required as well as qualifications to work in a team. Due to interaction with test subjects, mastering the Dutch language is a prerequisite (or needs to be acquired). 

Starting date:
Q3 2022

Additional Information can be obtained from:
Dr. J. Hoeks, Department of Nutrition and Movement Sciences, Maastricht University, Phone: +31 43 3881507. Email: j.hoeks@maastrichtuniversity.nl 

Prof. Dr. P. Schrauwen, Department of Nutrition and Movement Sciences, Maastricht University, Phone: +31 43 3881502. Email: p.schrauwen@maastrichtuniversity.nl