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New approaches to understanding the physical biology of blood stem cells

Department of Biology

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Dr D G Kent , Dr S D Johnson No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Trillions of blood cells are produced and destroyed every day. Adult blood stem cells are ultimately responsible for the lifelong maintenance of this system, making it essential to understand their biology for a wide array of clinical and industrial applications. Significant efforts are underway in biological and chemical engineering to produce vast quantities of cells for therapeutic purposes with hardly any information on the most fundamental biophysical properties of the stem cells targeted for expansion. Questions as straightforward as “What happens to a blood stem cell when it is squished through a tiny space?” are essential to informing such scale-up efforts, yet there is extremely little research undertaken on their biomechanics. This project aims to identify and characterise the cellular and molecular mechanism of mechanotransduction in blood stem cells.

This project has the following objectives: 1) Gain the first insight into the biophysical properties of blood stem cells; and 2) Use microfluidic devices and 3D artificial niches to expand blood stem cells and improve molecular assay pipelines for understanding the mechanism of blood stem cell extrinsic regulation.

This project will take a novel interdisciplinary approach to fundamental questions in blood stem cell biology. It sets out to study single blood stem cell biomechanics, leveraging new technologies/approaches in quantitative and physical biology and applying them to functionally defined mouse and human blood stem cell populations.

Funding Notes

This is a BBSRC White Rose DTP studentship fully funded for four years and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 estimated for 2020 entry), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.


Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

ELIGIBILITY: This studentship is only available to UK/EU students who have been residing in the UK for at least three years continuously prior to the start date of the PhD.

Interviews expected to take place on a date to be confirmed in February 2020.
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