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In vitro models of type 1 diabetes.

  • 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

Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, the hormone controlling the level of glucose in the blood stream. Because of this, individuals with Type 1 diabetes must assiduously monitor their blood glucose levels and inject insulin 3-4 times per day. In western countries, this condition affects around 1 in 2000 people and, as yet, neither cause nor cure has been identified. In this project, we will use stem cell models to investigate mechanisms underlying type 1 diabetes, with particular emphasis on the interaction between cells of the immune system and insulin producing beta cells.

Beta cells reside in pancreatic islets, small clusters of endocrine cells that secrete hormones directly into the blood stream. In type 1 diabetes, residual islets can contain a mixture of different immune cells, including effector cells such as CD4 and CD8 T-cells and NK cells, as well as antigen presenting cells like macrophages, dendritic cells and B-cells. We have developed methods for generating these different cell types from human pluripotent stem cells. We also have protocols for deriving insulin producing beta cells from the same pluripotent stem cell lines, providing an opportunity to directly observe interactions between beta cells and cells of the immune system in a person specific context.

This project will involve generating immune cells from induced pluripotent stem cells and testing their capacity to activate T-cells derived from individuals from type 1 diabetes. Students will learn how to grow, genetically modify and differentiate pluripotent stem cells. The project will also involve techniques such as flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, confocal microscopy, and quantitative PCR. Depending on the direction of the work, generation and analysis of RNAseq data may also be necessary.

The Immune Development Laboratory is physically located at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, part of the Melbourne Children’s Campus, which also includes the Royal Children’s Hospital and University of Melbourne: See our website for further information.

To be favourably considered for a position, applicants should construct a short 4 sentence paragraph outlining which cell lineages they are interested in and provide a single question that they would like to answer regarding these cell types.

Funding Notes

Students are enrolled through the Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne. Scholarships and Fee Waivers are available from the University on a competitive basis (View Website). Successful students usually require a GPA of 85/100 in order to be competitive. Note that English language requirements apply. Specifically, candidates need to have IELTS score of 7 overall with no individual task score being lower than 7. When sending an inquiry, students should supply as much detail of their academic records as possible. This includes academic transcripts as well as a CV.


Publications from our laboratory can be seen via the publicly accessible Google Scholar profile of the supervisor (Ed Stanley):

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