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Time to be born: the role of thyroid hormones in the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis before birth

Project Description

Oxford Brookes University
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences,
Department of Biomedical and Medical Sciences

3 Year, full-time PhD studentship
Eligibility: Home UK/EU applicants who must be permanently resident in UK/EU
Closing date: 31 December 2019
Start date: September 2020
Interview: w/c 13/01/2020
Bursary p.a.: Bursary equivalent to UKRI national minimum stipend plus fees (2019/20 bursary rate is £15,009)
University fees and bench fees at the Home/EU rate will be met by the University for the 3 years of the Studentship.
Supervisors: Dr Alison Forhead, Dr Laura Gathercole, Dr Helen Christian

Thyroid hormones and cortisol are important hormonal regulators of fetal growth and development. Thyroid hormone deficiency before birth delays maturation of fetal organs and prolongs gestation, possibly via effects on the fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Our recent research in an animal model shows that hypothyroidism reduces circulating cortisol and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), and impairs the growth and steroidogenic capacity of the fetal adrenal cortex. The effects of thyroid hormone deficiency on the structure and functional development of the fetal hypothalamic-pituitary axis, however, are unknown. The aim of this PhD studentship is to investigate the mechanisms by which hypothyroidism in utero suppresses the activity of the fetal HPA axis.

In collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the structure of neuronal networks and relative numbers of pituitary cell types may be determined by immunohistochemistry and stereological techniques. Studies may also be carried out to examine the sensitivity of the fetal pituitary to secrete ACTH in vitro, both basal and in response to regulatory factors. Protein and mRNA abundance of molecules important for pituitary hormone synthesis and secretion may be quantified by Western blotting and qRT-PCR. This project will determine the role of thyroid hormones in the growth and development of the fetal HPA axis, with implications for the control of fetal maturation and the timing of birth.

For further information contact Dr Alison Forhead:

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree from a Higher Education Institution in the UK or acceptable equivalent qualification in physiology or related cognate discipline. EU Applicants must have a valid IELTS Academic test certificate (or equivalent) with an overall minimum score of 7.0 and no score below 6.0 issued in the last 2 years by an approved test centre.

How to apply:
Applications should be sent to and should include the following application form
(View Website).

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