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Cellular cross-talk at the perivascular niche and the blood brain barrier

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Much research on vasculature has focussed on the endothelial cells that line functional vessels, however the milieu of cells that surround vessels (mural cells) play important and under-appreciated roles in homeostasis and disease. These cells make up the perivascular niche and play roles in controlling vascular integrity, function, regeneration and permeability. They can also serve as a niche for maintenance of stem cells and cancer cells. The mural cells and endothelium in the brain make up the blood brain barrier (BBB), which serves as both a key regulatory barrier in metastasis and a significant challenge in delivery of therapeutics to the brain.

We have recently developed zebrafish mutants that fail to maintain pericytes and other mural cell types at the BBB, we have generated single cell sequence-based transcriptomes of developing pericytes, mural cells and the BBB. We have a series of transgenic lines that label the cells of the perivascular niche and BBB, allowing us to investigate its development with unprecedented resolution. This project will investigate the development, composition and key cellular interactions of the perivascular niche in the zebrafish brain. The PhD candidate will use genetics, genome editing, transgenesis, transcriptomics, bioinformatics and high-resolution imaging of cell behaviour and function in vivo.

In the Hogan lab, researchers investigate the development of lymphatic vasculature and the blood brain barrier, which play important roles in the metastatic spread of cancer. Specifically, we aim to:
- Characterise signalling and transcriptional mechanisms that control lymphangiogenesis using studies in zebrafish and mice.
- Discover new genes essential for development of the blood brain barrier using zebrafish genetics.
- Develop imaging methods to visualise signalling in real time during tissue morphogenesis.
- Model cellular pathologies of vasculature in cancer and vascular disease.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne Australia’s only public hospital solely dedicated to cancer, and home to the largest cancer research group in Australia. Cancer is a complex set of diseases, and modern cancer research institutes such as Peter Mac conduct research covering a diversity of topics that range from laboratory-based studies into the fundamental mechanisms of cell growth, translational studies that seek more accurate cancer diagnosis, clinical trials with novel treatments, and research aimed to improve supportive care.

All students engaged in postgraduate studies at Peter Mac are enrolled in the Comprehensive Cancer PhD (CCPhD) program, regardless of which university they are enrolled through. The program is managed by the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology (The University of Melbourne), based at Peter Mac.

The Comprehensive Cancer PhD program builds on established conventional training for cancer research students providing a coordinated program of skills, research and career training in addition to usual PhD activities. The program is designed to complement existing PhD activities and provides opportunities to develop professional skills that will help candidates to fulfil their career ambitions.

Funding Notes

All PhD students at Peter Mac must have a scholarship from The University of Melbourne or through another government, trust or philanthropic organisation. Before applying for a scholarship, you must have agreed on a project with an institute supervisor.

For further information about the university application process, see:
View Website

For further information regarding scholarships (both local and international), see:
View Website
Closing dates for applications for scholarships to commence in 2020: Round 1 -31 October 2019; Round 2 - 31 Jan 2020; Round 3 - 15 May 2020.

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