MScR - In vivo characterisation of novel risk genes for Alzheimers disease identified by Genome Wide Association Studies

   School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience

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  Prof J Hodge  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have identified a number of genes that are significantly associated with the disease (van der Kant et al., 2019). We use the genetic tractability and short lifespan of Drosophila to make and characterise novel sporadic AD models based on these candidate AD risk loci. We have obtained transgenic RNAi lines for the closest Drosophila homologue for each of these ~20 candidate genes which will be screened in fruit flies for AD relevant phenotypes.

Firstly, RNAi will be expressed in all neurons (using elav-GAL4) or all glia (using repo-GAL4) and the effect on lifespan measured (normally 1-2 months) using longevity assays and survival curve analysis as well as in the eye (using GMR-GAL4) to assess degeneration, all assays set up in the lab (Higham et al., 2019b; Lowe et al., 2019). Secondarily, changes in memory will be assessed with the olfactory-shock conditioning assay by expressing the RNAi in the fly’s memory neurons, the mushroom body (with OK107-Gal4) using assays routinely used in the lab to assess the effect of AD on memory (Higham et al., 2019a; Higham et al., 2019b). Thirdly, the effect of the AD risk gene knock down on circadian rhythms and sleep will be assessed by expressing the candidates in all clock neuron (with Tim-Gal4) or pan-neuronally respectively using assays routinely used in the lab to measure the effect of AD on circadian rhythms and sleep (Buhl et al., 2019).

If you have questions please email the supervisor ([Email Address Removed]).

How to apply:

MSc by Research (MScR) is a 1-year research degree that provides an intensive lab-based training and a preparation for PhD study. You will carry out your studies as part of your research group – like a PhD student does. Towards the end of the year, you write up a thesis on your research and are examined on this. This degree suits students wanting to gain maximum research experience in preparation for PhD applications.

We are keen to recruit a diverse range of students and to ensure our research is open to all. We particularly welcome applications from groups traditionally under-represented in life sciences research. Please check the University webpages for the current tuition fee information. Most MScR projects also require a bench fee. This varies depending on the research and your project supervisor can tell you the bench fee for the project.

Please follow the link below and apply to the Faculty of Life Sciences, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, selecting the programme "Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience (MSc by Research)".

PhD Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

This MScR project is available to UK and international students who wish to self-fund their studies or who have access to their own funding.


Buhl, E., Higham, J.P., and Hodge, J.J.L. (2019). Alzheimer's disease-associated tau alters Drosophila circadian activity, sleep and clock neuron electrophysiology. Neurobiol Dis, 104507.
Higham, J.P., Hidalgo, S., Buhl, E., and Hodge, J.J.L. (2019a). Restoration of Olfactory Memory in Drosophila Overexpressing Human Alzheimer’s Disease Associated Tau by Manipulation of L-Type Ca2+ Channels. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience 13.
Higham, J.P., Malik, B.R., Buhl, E., Dawson, J.M., Ogier, A.S., Lunnon, K., and Hodge, J.J.L. (2019b). Alzheimer’s Disease Associated Genes Ankyrin and Tau Cause Shortened Lifespan and Memory Loss in Drosophila. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience 13.
Lowe, S.A., Usowicz, M.M., and Hodge, J.J.L. (2019). Neuronal overexpression of Alzheimer's disease and Down's syndrome associated DYRK1A/minibrain gene alters motor decline, neurodegeneration and synaptic plasticity in Drosophila. Neurobiol Dis 125, 107-114.

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