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Understanding neuron connectivity in health and disease


Project Description

The ability to think, move, or sense the environment depends on the correct formation and subtle changes of neuronal circuits and their billions of connections. In essence, this connectivity is dependent on neuronal polarization, a process by which neurons develop a long axon and multiple dendrites.
The regulation of axonal growth presents the neuron with important logistical problems derived from the fact that axons can travel great distances to find their targets. In this context, understanding the local processes that affect axon function and physiology is of crucial importance. For example, the concept of axonal mRNA localization and regulated translation at developing axon growth cones and synapses has gained increased acceptance. Our recent work has discovered how small non-coding RNAs (microRNAs) can control the local translation in the axon of key components of the cytoskeleton and thus regulate axonal growth and branching. This work has been followed by studies demonstrating how the local degradation of key proteins in the axon can also play a fundamental role in the regulation of neuron connectivity.

Our lab uses state of the art neuronal culture techniques using compartmentalized microfluidic cultures to model neuron connectivity using cortical and dorsal root ganglia neurons. These microfluidic chambers have allowed us to determine the microRNA content of the axon using next-generation sequencing. The aim of this research project is to identify the cellular function of some of these newly identified axonal microRNAs in health and disease, providing training in general cell biology skills, neuron primary cultures, microfluidic devices, imaging techniques and bioinformatics. We believe this is an exciting and novel project that will address a crucial scientific question in the field of molecular neuroscience.

The University of Nottingham is one of the world’s most respected research-intensive universities, ranked 8th in the UK for research power (REF 2014). Students studying in the School of Life Sciences will have the opportunity to thrive in a vibrant, multidisciplinary environment, with expert supervision from leaders in their field, state-of-the-art facilities and strong links with industry. Students are closely monitored in terms of their personal and professional progression throughout their study period and are assigned academic mentors in addition to their supervisory team. The School provides structured training as a fundamental part of postgraduate personal development and our training programme enables students to develop skills across the four domains of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). During their studies, students will also have the opportunity to attend and present at conferences around the world. The School puts strong emphasis on the promotion of postgraduate research with a 2-day annual PhD research symposium attended by all students, plus academic staff and invited speakers.

Funding Notes

Home applicants should contact the supervisor to determine the current funding status for this project. EU applicants should visit the Graduate School webpages for information on specific EU scholarships View Website. International applicants should visit our International Research Scholarships page for information regarding fees and funding at the University View Website.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 90.86

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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