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BBSRC White Rose DTP Studentship - Whole-animal imaging to track cellular responses during wound healing

Project Description

The study of regenerative biology aims to elucidate the innate ability of organisms to replace tissues or organs after they have been removed or damaged. During vertebrate regeneration, tissue damage causes the immediate release of signals that initiate wound closure and inflammation. Following this, regenerative cells proliferate and migrate to the damaged area. These cells then grow to replace the missing organ or tissue. This process is very efficient in aquatic vertebrates such as salamanders, frogs and fish, and is not very successful in terrestrial vertebrates such as ourselves. By increasing our understanding of how aquatic vertebrates regenerate tissue, we hope to enhance the application of regenerative medicine.

This project uses larval zebrafish as a model to study how cells respond to when the epithelia is damaged. Zebrafish repair wounds very quickly and efficiently, and their small size and transparency allows us to follow cell behaviour easily. We have found that there are very surprising movements of cells over the first few hours after damage, and this project aims to understand the forces involved in these movements and the signals that orchestrate the wound response. We will image fluorescently labelled cell membranes and nuclei over time to give positional data across the fish. This large scale image capture will be enabled by a custom built lightsheet microscope. Data sets will be analysed using physical and computational modelling to calculate passive and active forces such as compression, stretching, shear and friction. Once a physical model of whole animal cell movement is established we will interrogate our predictions by manipulating known early wound signals such as calcium, ATP and reactive oxygen species.

Science Graduate School:
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School – a community of postgraduate researchers working across biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and psychology. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

- a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (~£15,009, to be confirmed for 2020) for 4 years
- tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for 4 years.
- research costs

At least a 2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject or equivalent. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

Studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Further information on eligibility: View Website.


(1) “Damage-induced reactive oxygen species enable zebrafish tail regeneration by repositioning of Hedgehog expressing cells” Romero et al. Nature Comms volume 9, Article number: 4010 (2018)
(2) “Linking wound response and inflammation to regeneration in the zebrafish larval fin” Roehl. Int. J. Dev. Biol. 62: 473 - 477 (2018)

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