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Cell Deformation Cytometry for Studying of the Role of Perineuronal Nets in controlling the Biomechanics of Neuronal Cells

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Leeds United Kingdom Biophysics

About the Project

Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are hydrogel-like layers of aggregated brain extracellular matrix molecules that enwrap a subpopulation of neurones and are instrumental for the regulation of neuroplasticity. The level of PNN cross-linking, defined in part by the basic PNN components but also by PNN-binding neuronal guidance molecules, inevitably defines the mechanical characteristics of PNNs. Here, we hypothesise that the molecular assembly of PNNs stiffens neurones and, ultimately, modulates synaptic connections. 

The deformability of a cell is the direct result of a complex interplay between the different constituent elements at the subcellular level, coupling a wide range of mechanical responses at different length scales. The response to mechanical stress depends strongly on the forces experienced by the cell. Here, we will use cell deformability in micro?uidic platforms to probe different aspects of the role of PNNs in controlling cell stiffness. Deformation traces as a function of time contain a rich source of information including maximal strain, elastic modulus, and cell relaxation times and thus provide a number of markers for understanding cell behaviour. You will develop new microfluidics and high-speed microscopy approaches to study the mechanical properties of cells and working closely with biology will apply these approaches to understanding the role of PNNs in controlling cell stiffness.

Funding Notes

A highly competitive EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant of £15,285 (currently for session 2020/21) for 3.5 years. 
This opportunity is open to all applicants, with a small number of awards for Non-UK applicants limited by UKRI to 1.  All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship and selection is based on academic merit.
This project is also eligible for the School of Physics & Astronomy Fee Only award.

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