PhD Studentship –Using Exosomes to Enhance Neurite Outgrowth and Repair

PhD Supervisor: Melissa R. Andrews

co supervisor: David A. Tumbarello

Application Deadline: 10 March 2017

Interviews will be held in late March 2017

PhD Description:

Background:Attempts to regenerate damaged axons, while promising, only result in modest levels of regenerative growth.  Several therapies target the injury environment however it is also necessary to optimise the intrinsic growth machinery of damaged neurons.  The use of gene therapy to replace missing proteins within affected neurons has resulted in limited amounts of regeneration, with recent data showing that localisation and transport of re-expressed proteins can be excluded from damaged axons remaining instead within the somatodendritic compartment.  It therefore may be necessary to examine alternative approaches to re-express necessary proteins in injured neurons and axons in order to maximise growth and repair following injury.  Utilising small-membrane-bound microvesicles known as exosomes presents a novel method for delivering necessary proteins to injured neurons within the CNS.

Project Aims:

This studentship proposal will examine the potential for using loaded exosomes to enhance outgrowth and regeneration. Exosomes are secreted from most cells and are found in most biological fluids.  Exosomes have also been shown to transfer cargo to other cells, providing a means of intracellular communication and transport.   The main objectives of the project are to:

Perform in vitro evaluation of exosomes to determine uptake and activity of cargo by other cells in co-culture including their ability to induce neurite outgrowth and neuronal survival.

To develop techniques to assess uptake, expression and repair in the CNS following injection of exosomes loaded with growth-promoting protein in the injured spinal cord using a rodent model.

Skills and Environment:

This project lies within neuroscience with a focus in cell biology and neuroregeneration.  The PhD candidate will be trained in a range of techniques including cell biology, molecular biology, immunohistochemistry, microscopy (epifluorescent and confocal), and in vivo surgical approaches.  He/she will take a prominent role in developing methods to assess exosome loading in primary cultures along with exosome-induced neurite outgrowth and axon regeneration.  Alongside laboratory skills, the PhD candidate will gain experience in presentation skills, article writing for publication, as well as a number of postgraduate courses offered in Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Applicants should be enthusiastic and have a strong interest in cell biology, molecular biology, microscopy and should be keen to use experimental approaches to understand the fundamentals of neuroregeneration. Having skills in image analysis and experimental design are highly desirable.

The project is funded for 3 years and welcomes applicants from the UK and EU who have or expect to obtain at least an upper second class degree in Biological Sciences or allied subjects. Funding will cover fees and a stipend at current research council rates of £14,553 per annum 2017/18 entrants.

Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK/EU applicants

Applications for Biological Sciences should be submitted online at:


General enquiries should be made to Dr. Melissa Andrews at M.R.Andrews@soton.ac.uk.  Any queries on the application process should be made to pgafnes@soton.ac.uk

Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified.

The University of Southampton and Biological Sciences both hold an Athena Swan Silver & Bronze Award, respectively, demonstrating their commitment to provide equal opportunities and to advance the representation of women in STEM/M subjects: science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.   Due consideration will be given to applicants who have taken a career break.  University benefits include onsite childcare facilities, state-of-the-art on-campus sports, arts and culture facilities, a full programme of events and a range of staff discounts.

Closing Date: 10 Mar 2017

Post Type: PhD Studentship (Funded)

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