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(BBSRC DTP) Looking into the Crystal Ball: Uncovering Predictive Mechanical Cues for Cell Choices in Development and Disease


   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr S Woolner, Dr Kerrie Marie, Prof O Jensen  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The cells and tissues of our bodies are constantly pushed and pulled and it is vital that they sense and respond to these mechanical forces appropriately to maintain normal tissue function. This is particularly true during embryogenesis – the uniquely complex process of growing and shaping a whole organism from a single cell. We are beginning to understand some of the cellular mechanisms that link cell behaviour with mechanical force in isolated cells, but we know much less about how this applies to the complex tissues of our bodies. Bridging this gap is important since many common diseases, such as cancer, alter the mechanical properties of our tissues.  In this project we will study how the physical environment of a tissue contributes to normal embryo development. Lessons learned from the embryo will then be applied to models of cancer development to reveal how cell and tissue responses to mechanical force are maintained or dysregulated during oncogenesis. 

We will use cutting-edge microscopy and mathematical modelling to unlock the complexity of mechano-regulation in “real-world” tissue environments. One fundamentally important, “real-world” tissue environment is the mammalian neural crest. Neural Crest Cells (NCCs) are a highly migratory and multipotent population of cells that play a major role in embryonic development. A crucial cell type derived from NCCs are melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells in skin and the parent cell of melanoma, a devastating skin cancer. We will use a transgenic, fluorescent reporter mouse model (iDct-GFP) of embryonic melanocyte development. By applying a reproducible force to tissue explants under confocal imaging, we will map cell-shape changes in the mouse melanocyte precursor tissues when under known force regimes. We aim to explore the relationship between mechanical force and dynamic cell behaviours in the stretched tissue explants. This work will be taken forward in cutting-edge intravital imaging to observe the melanocytic lineage in a whole and living embryo and in mouse melanoma models of early tumour progression. This work will benefit from strong collaborations with the world-leading intravital expert, Dr Roberto Weigert (NCI, NIH, USA) and with the prestigious mouse melanoma model authority, Dr Glenn Merlino (NCI, NIH, USA). This project will include a potential visit to the NIH campus, USA, to further develop the technology/collaborations. This work has the potential to uncover a meaningful predictor for metastatic risk in early-stage melanoma tumours, which would revolutionise the way patient tumours are selected for further therapy. 

Eligibility 

Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science, engineering or technology.  

Before you Apply 

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.  

How To Apply 

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on eligibility how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/bbsrc-dtp/  

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]  

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion  

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/equality-diversity-inclusion/  


Funding Notes

Studentship funding is for 4 years. This scheme is open to both the UK and international applicants. We are only able to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
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