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  Identification of transcriptomic signatures of autism-like neurodevelopmental disorder

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr Pawel Grzechnik, Dr Alan Whitmarsh  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The overarching aim of this project is to define transcriptional patterns and identify new genetic elements essential for the correct development of the human brain.

The loss of a DNA fragment in q11-13 locus of chromosome 15 is associated with severe neurodevelopmental disorders including Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) manifesting with autism-like symptoms, morphological changes, obesity and intellectual disabilities. The molecular changes driven by the mutations in this region (so-called PWS locus) are largely unknown. Several genetic units from PWS locus including protein-coding genes, small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) as well as long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) have the potential to control gene expression. Thus, the aim of this project is to achieve a comprehensive view of how coding and non-coding RNAs transcribed from the PWS locus regulate RNA synthesis at key stages of neurodevelopment: in undifferentiated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), neural stem cells (NSCs) and mature neurons.

In the experimental approaches, the student will differentiate iPSCs to neural progenitors and cortical neurons. Next, the depletion of individual genetic at different stages of neuronal maturation will be followed by a wide range of transcriptional and functional analyses.

Overall, the project will reveal specific functions in stem cells, neural stem cells and neurons of individual coding and non-coding RNAs synthesised from the region deleted in PWS, contributing to our understanding of how the development of the human brain is regulated.


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject area. Applicants with a master's degree in Biological Sciences are encouraged to apply.

Before you Apply 

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.  

How to Apply 

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title - PhD Molecular Biology.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]  

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion  

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website  

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website
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