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On-site assembly of the actin cortex in semi-synthetic cells to control cell mechanics and behaviour

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Y Elani
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Cellular Bionics – 3 year PhD studentships

Supervisors: Dr Elani Yuval | Dr Nick Brooks | Dr Marina Kuimova

Can we engineer semi-synthetic cells that can alter their global mechanical properties on-demand, in response to external stimuli? Can we link these mechanical properties to downstream protocellular ‘behaviours’ that are relevant to therapeutic and biotechnological applications? This project aims to address these questions using a cellular bionics approach. By intermingling both biological and synthetic components, an actin cortex will be manufactured/disassembled within vesicle-based synthetic cells in response to light of defined wavelengths. This will allow the synthetic cell to dynamically switch between mechanically distinct states (i.e. different rigidities and viscosities). Coupling cell biomechanics to different behaviours, in this case the cell’s ability to squeeze through constrictions under flow, will be investigated using a microfluidic device. This project will first require an understanding of the effect of the actin cortex on cell mechanics to be developed using molecular rotors and flickering analysis. These insights will then allow us to controllably engineer the stimuli-responsive systems.

Funding Notes

Applications are encouraged as soon as possible, since positions will be filled as soon as suitable candidates are found.
To see our other projects, our eligibility criteria, and to find out how to apply, please visit our studentships page:
For more information about the Leverhulme Centre please visit our homepage:

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