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GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP Studentship: The role of neural stem cells and neurogenesis in regulating body weight

   Cardiff School of Biosciences

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  Dr D Petrik  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We will combine molecular biology and neuroscience to investigate the role of neural stem cells and new neurons in regulation of body weight. To study changes in neural networks, cell dynamics and proliferation, you will learn the cutting-edge technologies, including patch-seq (a combination of patch-clamp electrophysiology and single-cell RNA sequencing, scRNAseq), multi-electrode array recording, calcium imaging, and live cell imaging.    Obesity remains one of the biggest medical and socioeconomic challenges. It increases the risk of depression (1) and cancer (2) and it is the second leading cause of disability (3). In the UK, 64% of adults and 22% of children are overweight or obese (4). Treatment of obesity should involve anti-obesity drugs; unfortunately, several anti-obesity drugs originally approved for clinical use were later rejected for severe side effects (5-7). There is a clinical need for new safer neuro-active anti-obesity medications.   We have developed a lipidized analogue of the neuropeptide Prolactin Releasing Peptide, called LiPrRP. It reduces weight gain in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity (DIO) (8, 9), it accumulates in the brain, and stimulates appetite-controlling neurons in the hypothalamus (10). In addition, LiPrRP increases survival of new hypothalamic neurons generated from the resident neural stem cells in the process of adult neurogenesis. LiPrRP is scheduled for clinical trials in 2021-22. However, cellular, and molecular mechanisms of action of LiPrRP need to be fully understood.   In this project you will receive training in advanced molecular and cellular techniques. You will determine how LiPrRP influences physiology and gene expression of hypothalamic neurons, glia, and stem cells. Using multi-electrode arrays and calcium imaging, you will determine how LiPrRP affects excitability of hypothalamic neuronal networks. To obtain multi-dimensional data on individual cells, you will utilize the cutting-edge patch-seq method (11, 12). This powerful technology allows recording of a cell before its cellular content is collected for subsequent analysis. This data will help determine how LiPrRP affects function and gene expression of individual cells. Finally, you will use time-lapse imaging of neural stem cells to elucidate how LiPrRP influences cell dynamics, self-renewal, and cell proliferation.   The supervisory team has shared and complementary expertise in neuroscience and obesity research, notably the biology of Prolactin Releasing Peptide (13) making us ideal mentors for this project. We will combine our expertise in physiology and stem cell biology (14) (Petrik Lab, Cardiff), glia and metabolism (15, 16) (Ellacott Lab, Exeter) and bioinformatics (17)(Zhou Lab, Cardiff) to complement the research plan.   You will benefit from excellent research support including the Genomic Research Hub and Medicines Discovery Institute (Cardiff) and the Neuroendocrine Research Group, which is part of the ExCEED Center for Excellence in Diabetes Research (Exeter). In addition, we collaborate with Webber Lab (UK Dementia Research Institute, Cardiff) on omics approaches and bioinformatics, with Maletinska Lab (Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Czech Republic) on protein modifications and biochemistry, and with Sierra and Encinas Labs (Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience, Spain) on inflammation, microglia, and stem cell biology.   References   1. Pereira-Miranda et al. 2017 2. Barberio et al. 2019 3. Ferrari et al. 2013 4. NHS Obesity Stats 2019 5. Saunders et al. 2016 6. Aronne 2017 7. Patel and Stanford 2018 8. Maletinska et al. 2015 9. Prazienkova et al. 2017 10. Mikulaskova et al. 2016 11. Picelli et al. 2013 12. Cadwell et al. 2016 13. Ellacott et al. 2002 14. Petrik et al. 2018 15. MacDonald et al. 2020 16. Robb et al. 2020 17. Abdul-Jawad et al. 2021  

Academic criteria: Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a UK degree, or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of medical sciences. However, the DTP also welcomes students from non-medical backgrounds, especially in areas of computing, mathematics and the physical sciences. Please check the entry requirements of the home institution for each project of interest before completing an application. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.

English requirements: If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements of the university that will host your PhD by the start of the programme. This will be at least 6.5 in IELTS or an acceptable equivalent. Please refer to the relevant university for further information.

How to Apply

A list of all the projects and how to apply is available on our website at You may apply for up to 2 projects.

Please complete an application to the GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP for an ‘offer of funding’. You may also need to make an 'offer to study' to your chosen institution(s):

To submit a formal application via Cardiff University’s online application service, click the 'Institution Website' button on this advert; in the ‘Apply’ box at the top-right of the page, select Qualification (Doctor of Philosophy), Mode of Study (Full Time) and Start Date (October 2022). This will take you to the application portal.

Candidates must submit the following:

 • Supporting statement

 • CV

 • Qualification certificates

 • Proof of English language (if applicable) 

In the research proposal section of the application, specify the project title and supervisors of the project. In the funding section, select “I will be applying for a scholarship/grant” and specify advertised funding from GW4 BioMed2 MRC. If you are applying for more than one Cardiff University project, please note this in the research proposal section as the form only allows you to enter one title.

Please complete the online application form by 5.00pm on 26th November 2021. If you are shortlisted for interview, you will be notified by 28th January 2022. Interviews will be held virtually on 16th and 17th February 2022.

Further Information

For informal enquiries, please contact [Email Address Removed]

For project related queries, please contact the respective supervisors listed on the projects.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded through GW4BioMed2 MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. It consists of UK tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£15,609 p.a. for 2021/22, updated annually). Training and support funding of up to £5,000 per annum is also available.
The GW4 have agreed to cover the difference in costs between home and international tuition fees. This means that international candidates will not be expected to cover this cost and will be fully funded, but will be required to cover the cost of their student visa, healthcare surcharge and any other costs.
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