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MRC Precision Medicine DTP: Approaches to detect and block transition stages in Trypanosoma brucei

Project Description

Dr Thomas Otto
Prof Richard McCulloch
Prof Keith Matthews

Project summary:
Trypanosomatids are a grouping of single-celled parasites belonging to the order Kinetoplastea. One of these parasites, Trypanosoma brucei, is responsible for the sleeping sickness diseases transmitted by the tsetse fly, affecting humans and livestock in Africa. Only
a handful of drugs are available, many of which are not efficient and have severe side effects. Emerging data has explored the factors needed for some, but by no means all, aspects of transmission between the distinct parasites forms found as the parasite moves from mammals to vector and back. Notably, the developmental programme in the tsetse vector is poorly understood and, crucially, little work has examined the temporal order of gene expression changes during life cycle transitions. In this PhD we aim to detect genes essential in the transition from the vector stages to the mammalian stages in T. brucei in order to identify pathways that could be targeted by novel compounds. We will obtain and analyse single cell RNA-seq from these stages. Through pseudo time and branching analysis we will detect genes crucial for transition. Finally, the student will ablate these genes and attempt to block the factors, to ask how they act in the life cycle and test if they might be drug targets. This is an interdisciplinary project to train students in quantitative methods and brings together a supervisor team with a diverse background. By the end of the PhD, the student will have learned novel genomics and laboratory techniques that are crucial in the field of precision medicine.

This MRC programme is joint between the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. You will be registered at the host institution of the primary supervisor detailed in your project selection.

All applications should be made via the University of Edinburgh, irrespective of project location. Please note that your application along with any supporting documents will be shared between both the University of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

For information on ‘How to Apply’ is detailed here:
Please note that all applications must be submitted via the University of Edinburgh:

Please note, you must apply to one of the projects and you must contact the primary supervisor prior to making your application. Additional information on the application process is available from the link above.

For more information about Precision Medicine visit:

Funding Notes

Start: September 2020

Qualifications criteria: Applicants applying for a MRC DTP in Precision Medicine studentship must have obtained, or will soon obtain, a first or upper-second class UK honours degree or equivalent non-UK qualification, in an appropriate science/technology area.

Residence criteria: The MRC DTP in Precision Medicine grant provides tuition fees and stipend of at least £15,009 (RCUK rate 2019/20) for UK and EU nationals that meet all required eligibility criteria.

Full eligibility details are available: View Website

Enquiries regarding programme:

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