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Understanding genetic factors underlying vulnerability to nicotine addiction and response to treatment

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Caroline Brennan
    Prof R Walton
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Addiction, including smoking, remains the leading preventable cause of death in the UK and presents a huge social and financial cost to society. While there have been key advances in understanding the underlying neurocircuitry and adaptation, far less is known of developmental and genetic factors that contribute to vulnerability to addiction. Genome-wide association studies in humans have demonstrated a significant genetic contribution to vulnerability to drug dependence and addiction and identified a number of linked alleles.

This project aims to identify new genetic markers linked to drug addiction and treatment outcome by interrogation of human SNP data and analysis of lines of mutagenised zebrafish. The results of the work are likely to be relevant to central reward mechanisms involving dopamine and other neurotransmitters both in animals and in humans and may identify proteins whose action could be modified by drug therapy. The potential also exists to identify individuals who might respond to specific therapies for dependence. The ultimate aim of these studies is to develop safer, more effective treatments for addictive disorders.

You will research fundamental mechanisms underlying addictive behaviour that cross the barriers between species. Initial work will use a zebrafish model of nicotine dependence to identify novel genes related to addiction. You will then test these genes in large human studies for effects on level of dependence and response to treatment for nicotine addiction.

The successful applicant will have, or expect to be awarded, a First or Upper Second Class honours degree or an MSc in a biological science, genetics or a related subject. You should have an aptitude for laboratory work and numerical analysis and also be keen to be involved in a multidisciplinary team organising and managing clinical studies.

This three year, full time PhD studentship is funded by the HEFCE in a funding stream intended to foster academic collaboration. The project arises from collaboration between Dr Caroline Brennan (School of Biological Sciences), Professor Robert Walton (IHSE, Centre for Health Sciences) and would be suitable for candidates wishing to pursue a range of careers in clinical trials, academic science or the biotechnology industry.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr Caroline Brennan ([email protected] tel: 020 7882 6357)

For further information about the School of Biological & Chemical Sciences, the Institute of Health Sciences Education see:

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at Research Councils UK rates (£16,054 in 2015/16).
A Research Training and Support grant is also provided together with an allowance for travel and conferences.
Foreign nationals can apply. The starting date is October 2016.

Related Subjects

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.39

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

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