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Exploiting CRISPR/Cas9 for the Control of Parasitic Nematode NTDs

Project Description

This project will be supervised by Dr Louise Atkinson, Dr Angela Mousley, and Professor Aaron Maule of Queen’s University School of Biological Sciences.

Please note that it is hoped to hold interviews for this PhD position on 29 March or 1 April 2019. The successful candidate MUST be available to start the PhD on 1 September 2019.

How To Apply:

Applicants MUST submit an application via the University’s Direct Applications Portal (click the Visit Website link above). Please note that NO other method of application, such as submission of a CV by email, is acceptable.

Project details:

Parasitic nematode-Neglected Tropical Diseases undermine the health and wellbeing of >1 billion people living in extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. Over-reliance on a limited range of anthelmintics threatens the sustainability of parasitic nematode treatments and highlights the need for novel control options. Cannabinoids are derived from the recreational drug cannabis and are renowned for their unique ability to modulate vertebrate neurobiology. Cannabinoids are also synthesized endogenously (endocannabinoids; ECs) and signal neuronally via G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) to control feeding, motor and sensory functions. Indeed, EC-signalling in human medicine is currently receiving significant attention as a novel therapeutic target. In nematodes, knowledge on EC signalling is currently limited to Caenorhabditis elegans where it influences a range of behaviours via novel EC-GPCRs that differ from known vertebrate EC receptors. Nematode specific EC-GPCRs also appear to be conserved in parasitic nematodes, however, we lack fundamental understanding of their functional importance to parasite biology. Nematode EC-GPCRs are potentially important to parasite biology and could offer an attractive novel source of chemotherapeutic options for the future control of nematode-NTDs.

This project aims to examine the functional biology of parasitic nematode EC-GPCRs. EC-GPCRs will be functionally characterised using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing and novel phenotype bioassays in the parasitic nematodes Strongyloides stercoralis and Strongyloides ratti. This work will inform fundamental nematode EC biology and will drive the functional validation of novel drug targets for the control of human parasitic nematode disease.

Specific skills/experience required:

Candidates should have or expect to obtain a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in Biological Sciences or a relevant life sciences subject.
Experience in molecular biology and nematode biology/parasitology is desirable but not essential. Training in molecular techniques (qPCR, droplet digital PCR), parasite functional genomics (CRISPR/Cas9) and animal handling will be provided.

Funding Notes

Full funding (fees and stipend) by the Academy of Medical Sciences is guaranteed for three years.
International applicants are eligible to apply.

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