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Characterization of proteomic molecules involved in embryo-maternal communication signal transductions via extracellular vesicles.

   Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences

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  Dr Alireza Fazeli  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Tartu Estonia Bioinformatics Cell Biology Molecular Biology Reproductive Biology Veterinary Medicine

About the Project

The Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences (Eesti Maaülikool) ( opens a PhD position in the field of “Characterization of proteomic molecules involved in embryo-maternal communication signal transductions via extracellular vesicles”. The successful candidate will join the COMBIVET ERA Chair program and will be working under the supervision of Professor Alireza Fazeli.

Project scope

Extracellular vesicles (EV) are membrane-bound biological nanoparticles secreted by almost all cell types in the body under different physiological and pathological conditions. Though the EVs are a relatively newly identified mode of intercellular communication, studies show that EV-based communication is the common language of life for the whole biome. EV-mediated communications are diverse and include, but not limited to, regulating different innate immune responses, inflammation, and regeneration of the cells. Hence, EVs can be very good targets for biomarker discovery as well as drugs and therapeutics.

In our laboratories, we have extensively studied the role of the EVs in different aspects of reproductive processes in different species [1–6]. In particular, we have demonstrated that EVs are involved in embryo-maternal communication [1,4–6]. It seems EVs produced by embryo can affect mothers transcriptome at the genomic level [1,4]. Understanding the mechanisms of action and molecules involved in this processes will improve our understanding of factors mediating conception and embryo implantation. These data may be used for improving fertility in human and livestock.

The main aim of the current studentship is to identify EV proteomic profiles exchanged between the embryo and mother and identification and characterization of the putative protein(s) that could mediate EVs proteomic signalling pathway between the embryo and the maternal environment.

Existing research resources

Fazeli Research Group has extensive expertise and knowledge in isolation and characterization of EVs from different biological fluids. We have developed and optimized different methodologies for EV isolation and characterization [7–10]. The research group has also developed novel methods in EV tracking and uptake analysis, measuring the EV functionality, the specificity of the EVs to their target cells and the use of EVs in applied diagnostic and therapeutic settings.

The Fazeli group are actively involved in science dissemination for general public via taking part in different science festivals and public lectures. In addition, Fazeli group have so far organised three research schools entitled “Basics of working with EVs”, teaching over hundred young researchers and investigators from all over the globe, the basic skills required for standardized EV related experimentation.

Required qualification: Master’s degree in Medical Biology or Physiology or Molecular Biology or a related field. Experience in working with extracellular vesicles, cell culture and molecular biology technologies will be advantageous.

Required language skills: Good level of English: Recent TOEFL Certificate (only internet-based test scores are accepted, with the minimum score being 61); Recent IELTS Certificate (minimum score: 5.0); Recent First Certificate in English of the University of Cambridge; Recent PTE academic (minimum score 51); or An official certificate from the higher educational establishment if the medium of instruction was English during the whole period of studies.

Application documents: CV (Curriculum Vitae), copy of the Master’s degree certificate, and motivation letter in free format. See complete list at

COMBIVET Research Group

Formed under the ERA Chair of Comparative Medicine, the COMBIVET Research Group is investigating the health challenges faced by both humans and animals. These include age-related diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, bone and joint diseases and metabolic diseases. Knowledge gained from studying and treating animals as well as human patients can be applied in developing new diagnostic tools, vaccines and therapies for both humans and animals. The research performed by the COMBIVET group aims to propel the Estonian University of Life Science as a leading European research organization in the field of comparative medicine.

COMBIVET ERA Chair project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 857418.

Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science (

The Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences performs high-level modern teaching and R&D activities in the field of veterinary medicine and other subject areas related to animal science, including aquaculture, animal nutrition and production. Research conducted by the seven departments, animal clinic and working groups of the Institute involves almost all aspects of the “from farm to fork” production and processing chain of animal products.

Estonian University of Life Sciences (

Estonian University of Life Sciences is the only university in Estonia whose priorities in academic and research activities provide the sustainable development of natural resources as well as the preservation of heritage and habitat. According to QS World University Rankings by Subject, the Estonian University of Life Sciences is one of top 50 universities in the world in the field of agriculture and forestry.

City of Tartu (

Tartu, the City of Good Thoughts, is preponderantly a city of students and intellectuals. A statue of kissing students is welcoming from the large Classicist town square, nearby museums, cafes, bars and a large park formed around a hill. Tartu is the second largest city in Estonia, with around 100,000 inhabitants. It is very open to creative work and scientific culture, and always interesting events take place in the city.


Estonia is located on the Baltic Sea shore, at the crossroads of Northern, Western and Eastern Europe. Since 2004 Estonia belongs to the European Union. Estonia attracts the visitors with its clean environment, diverse culture and excellent food. Estonia has some of the cleanest air in the world and 4 distinct seasons. The landscape is covered with mires and bogs, fields and forests, limestone barrens and coastlines. Estonia has the largest collection of folk songs in the world. Music festivals and sports events connect culture and sports lovers from all over the world. Although Estonia may be the smallest of all Baltic countries, it more than makes up for this in different attractions.

Funding Notes

The PhD position is for a 4-year period. The expenses will be paid from the COMBIVET project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 857418.


[1] Es-Haghi M, Godakumara K, Häling A, Lättekivi F, Lavrits A, Viil J, Andronowska A, Nafee T, James V, Jaakma Ü, Salumets A, Fazeli A. Specific trophoblast transcripts transferred by extracellular vesicles affect gene expression in endometrial epithelial cells and may have a role in embryo-maternal crosstalk. Cell Commun Signal 2019; 17.
[2] Hasan MM, Viil J, Lättekivi F, Ord J, Reshi QUA, Jääger K, Velthut-Meikas A, Andronowska A, Jaakma Ü, Salumets A, Fazeli A. Bovine Follicular Fluid and Extracellular Vesicles Derived from Follicular Fluid Alter the Bovine Oviductal Epithelial Cells Transcriptome. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2020; 21:5365.
[3] Rooda I, Hasan MM, Roos K, Viil J, Andronowska A, Smolander O-P, Jaakma Ü, Salumets A, Fazeli A, Velthut-Meikas A. Cellular, Extracellular and Extracellular Vesicular miRNA Profiles of Pre-Ovulatory Follicles Indicate Signaling Disturbances in Polycystic Ovaries. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2020; 21:9550.
[4] Dissanayake K, Nõmm M, Lättekivi F, Ord J, Ressaissi Y, Godakumara K, Reshi QUA, Viil J, Jääger K, Velthut-Meikas A, Salumets A, Jaakma Ü, et al. Oviduct as a sensor of embryo quality: deciphering the extracellular vesicle (EV)-mediated embryo-maternal dialogue. J Mol Med (Berl) 2021.
[5] Dissanayake K, Nõmm M, Lättekivi F, Ressaissi Y, Godakumara K, Lavrits A, Midekessa G, Viil J, Bæk R, Jørgensen MM, Bhattacharjee S, Andronowska A, et al. Individually cultured bovine embryos produce extracellular vesicles that have the potential to be used as non-invasive embryo quality markers. Theriogenology 2020; 149:104–116.
[6] Jamaludin NA, Thurston LM, Witek KJ, Meikle A, Basatvat S, Elliott S, Hunt S, Andronowska A, Fazeli A. Efficient isolation, biophysical characterisation and molecular composition of extracellular vesicles secreted by primary and immortalised cells of reproductive origin. Theriogenology 2019; 135:121–137.
[7] Dissanayake K, Godakumara K, Fazeli A. Isolation of Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) Using Size-Exclusion High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (SE-HPLC). Methods Mol Biol 2021; 2273:189–200.
[8] Dissanayake K, Midekessa G, Lättekivi F, Fazeli A. Measurement of the Size and Concentration and Zeta Potential of Extracellular Vesicles Using Nanoparticle Tracking Analyzer. Methods Mol Biol 2021; 2273:207–218.
[9] Reshi QUA, Hasan MM, Dissanayake K, Fazeli A. Isolation of Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) Using Benchtop Size Exclusion Chromatography (SEC) Columns. Methods Mol Biol 2021; 2273:201–206.
[10] Midekessa G, Godakumara K, Ord J, Viil J, Lättekivi F, Dissanayake K, Kopanchuk S, Rinken A, Andronowska A, Bhattacharjee S, Rinken T, Fazeli A. Zeta Potential of Extracellular Vesicles: Toward Understanding the Attributes that Determine Colloidal Stability. ACS Omega 2020; 5:16701–16710.
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