We invite applications for a PhD studentship in the Higgins lab, in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London for an October 2017 entry. The PhD position is competitively funded for UK/EU candidates. Non-EU applicants can apply but will be required to show evidence that the difference between the overseas fees and UK/EU fees will covered by other sources.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were first introduced in 2006, and since then they have revolutionised the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Typically, four transcription factors are required to generate IPSCs from dermal fibroblasts; Oct4, cMyc, Klf4 and Sox2. However, research is geared towards reducing the number of factors required, either by finding small molecules that can replace one or other of the four factors, or by using a starting cell type which autonomously expresses one of the transcription factors. In my laboratory we use skin and hair follicle cells as a model system to research tissue homeostasis, and regeneration. The dermal papilla is a small cluster of cells located at the base of the hair follicle, and it is known to express three of the four reprogramming factors (cMyc, Klf4 and Sox2). In fact, mouse dermal papilla cells have been reprogrammed into iPSCs using just a single factor, Oct4. This finding has not been translated to human, and therefore we are yet to demonstrate reprogramming of human cells with a single factor. One of the main reasons for this is the difficulties in isolation of human papilla cells. Often, during the course of isolation, expression of the three natively expressed transcription factors is lost, rendering human dermal papilla cells the same as dermal fibroblasts. In this PhD programme, we will identify ways to successfully isolate human papilla cells, while maintaining their expression of cMyc, Klf4 and Sox2. We can then generate, for the first time, human iPSCs with a single transcription factor, which will serve as a useful tool in regenerative medicine.
Applicants should have an MEng, MSc or MRes (or equivalent research experience/qualification) in bioengineering, biological or natural sciences. We are looking for highly motivated applicants with excellent interpersonal, written and oral communication skills but most importantly enthusiasm for exposure to new techniques and approaches, and a passion for excelling in their specialism.