PhD Position - Astrocyte reactivity as a therapeutic target and diagnostic tool in perinatal brain injury

A PhD position is available in the Laboratory for Prenatal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Fetomaternal Medicine, Insel Hospital (Prof. Daniel Surbek, Prof. Andreina Schoeberlein), for highly motivated candidates interested in studying the role of glial cells in perinatal brain injury.

Starting date: February 1st, 2023 (or as agreed)

Duration: 3-4 years

Project Background

yPerinatal white matter injury is the leading cause of long-term neurologic morbidity in infants born preterm. While astrocyte reactivity is a known hallmark of perinatal white matter injury, the role of reactive astrocytes in disease pathophysiology is still unclear. In a mouse model of perinatal white matter injury, we have recently shown that impairing the formation of a specific C3-expressing neuroinflammatory reactive astrocyte sub-type by blocking expression of microglial-derived cytokines rescues defects in postnatal myelination as well as behavioral deficits. To confirm relevance to human disease, we have demonstrated the presence of C3-expressing reactive astrocytes in human neonatal post-mortem brain tissue affected by perinatal white matter injury. Our data points to C3-expressing inflammatory reactive astrocytes as putative drivers of myelination failure in perinatal white matter injury and a potentially promising therapeutic target and biomarker in this disease.

Requirements

  • University Master Degree in Biomedical / Biological Sciences or equivalent.
  • Work with rodent models of disease is a key component of this project. While previous experience with rodent handling and experimentation is not required, willingness to perform studies on mice and rats is required.
  • Independence, creativity, and self-directed problem solving are key to success in this position.

Your Responsibilities

During the period of PhD training, the sought student will conduct research to answer two main questions: Do reactive astrocytes play a causal role in producing the myelination defects characteristic of acute perinatal brain injury? Can we harness reactive astrocyte-derived extracellular vesicles detected in peripheral blood as diagnostic tools in perinatal brain injury? The student will lead the experimental component of these aims including experimental planning, execution, data analysis, and preparation of data for presentation and publication.

  • Planning and execution of research investigating causal role of astrocyte reactivity in perinatal brain injury (cell culture, in vitro assay design, gene expression analysis, in vivo experiments with rodent models, organoid collaboration)
  • Planning and execution of experiments investigating the use of astrocyte-derived extracellular vesicles as a diagnostic tool in perinatal brain injury (cell culture, methodological optimization, gene expression analysis, mass spectrometry, clinical sample analysis)
  • Preparing findings for presentation at local and international conferences.
  • Publication of findings in peer-reviewed journals

We offer

  • The student will work as part of an active basic research laboratory team led by Prof. Daniel Surbek and Prof. Andreina Schoeberlein. The team is composed of three post-doctoral fellows, a senior PhD student, and a research associate.
  • Laboratory meetings for data presentation and discussion are held twice monthly.
  • Discussion of data and feedback on results and next steps will be provided on a daily to weekly basis through the post-doctoral fellow leading the overarching project.
  • The project offers the opportunity to be involved with international collaborations (Brain organoid collaboration (Emory University, GA, USA), Human post-mortem perinatal brain tissue collaboration (University of California, San Francisco, USA)
  • The Department of Obstetrics and Fetomaternal Medicine, Insel Hospital and the Department for BioMedical Research at the University of Bern provides a stimulating platform for scientific interaction between clinicians, PhD students, post-docs, and faculty through regular gatherings to present and discuss research.

Salary: According to the University of Bern Guidelines

Application:

Please send your CV including a motivational letter as well as the names and contact details of two references as a single PDF document to amanda.brosiuslutz@insel.ch.