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The Role of Microglia-released microRNA in the Pathology of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS; motor neuron disease)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, March 02, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship funded by the Motor Neurone Disease Association to study the link between microglia-derived microRNA (miRNA) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the leading form of motor neuron disease, but the exact mechanisms that underlie its pathology are not well understood.

Microglia are one of the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS) and it is recognised that neuroinflammation involving activated microglia and astrocytes play an important role in disease progression of both ALS patients and animal models. Activated microglia release a number of cytokines, which modulate the function of the neighbouring neurons. In addition, our data that show cultured mouse microglia also release a large number of microRNAs (miRNAs) into the media and that microglial activation leads to significant changes in the composition of these miRNAs. There is increasing evidence that released miRNAs play an important role in cell-to-cell communication by modulating gene expression in the recipient cells. There is, however, a significant gap in our knowledge about the identity of the microglia-derived miRNA and their impact on motor neurons in the context of ALS pathology.

Thus, this project will utilise cells isolated from ALS mouse models to address this gap by profiling the miRNA expressed inside activated and non- activated microglia and those released from these cells, using next generation RNA sequencing technology. The student will then use bioinformatics tools and cell/molecular biology techniques to identify the key microglia- derived miRNA that are differentially expressed and their target genes in motor neurons. Lastly, the student will determine the effects of the identified microglia-derived miRNAs in the expression of their target genes in motor neurons and subsequently their impact on motor neuron function.

How to apply:
Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest and names of two academic referees. On the application system use Programme of Study – PhD Neuroscience

For enquiries about the application process contact Emma Chorley ()

For enquiries about the project contact Professor Majid Hafezparast ()

Funding Notes

This funded position, which covers fees and a stipend at standard RCUK rates, is open to Home / EU applicants.

Ideal candidates will have a strong background in cell and molecular biology with additional experience of bioinformatics. Eligible candidates will have recently received an MSc and/or a First or high 2:1 BSc in a relevant subject. Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Sussex in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.61

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