All cells are not created equal: the importance of timing (MUNSTERBERG_U18DTP1)

University of East Anglia
October 06 2017
Life Sciences, Biology
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Differentiated cells have varied and specialist functions in the body. How does this complexity of cell types arise during embryo development? We study the specification of mesoderm, which forms during gastrulation. Mesoderm generates important tissues, including cardiac and skeletal muscle cells, which are needed for the growth and survival (heart) of embryos, and for quality of life postnatally (muscle). Vertebrate gastrulation is a dynamic process, when mesoderm cells first emerge after ingressing through the primitive streak. The cells undergo an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and, in response to signals, migrate towards their final destination. We have identified some of the signals required for this migration: Wnt, BMP and FGF. Interestingly, we found that early and late emerging mesoderm cells, which produce heart or muscle tissue respectively, respond differently: The same signal causes mesoderm cells to change either their migration (early exposure) or fate (late exposure). We used this observation to design a differential screen with the aim to determine how the cells' responses are controlled at the molecular level, i.e. what genes are up- or downregulated in the different scenarios. In this project, the student will investigate the role of differentially expressed candidate genes identified using in vivo gain- and loss-of function in chick embryos. These are accessible for microinjections and live imaging experiments to determine the effects resulting from interference with gene function. This project is supported by pilot data and the student will benefit from established methods and expertise. The new knowledge generated will benefit stem cell science, with prospects for future cell based therapies.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 9th, 10th or 11th January 2018.

The Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding notes

Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,553pa - 2017/8), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:


This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

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