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Metabolic regulation of liver development and regeneration using 3D organoid systems

School of Biological Sciences

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Wednesday 30 June 2021
Reference:  1379721BJ

PhD Supervisor: Dr Nicole Prior          

PhD Description:   

Tissue resident stems cells can be found across embryonic and adult tissues. These stem cells switch between quiescent, proliferative and differentiating states to regulate developmental patterning, organogenesis, adult organ homeostasis and repair mechanisms. Transitions in stem cell fate are associated with extensive metabolic rewiring, in which metabolic substrates act as rate-limiting factors to modulate epigenetic modifications and protein post translational modifications, thereby affecting gene expression and cell signalling activities.

To date, the regulatory role of cellular metabolism on cell fate transitions in the liver is unclear, in part, due to the inaccessibility of in vivo human samples and the challenge of segregating whole-body metabolism from cellular metabolism. Recently, we have developed 3D liver organoids that recapitulate aspects of native tissue architecture and function in vitro. Organoid technology enables us to analyse cellular metabolism, separate from the influence of whole-body metabolism or other signalling cues.

This project aims to determine the mechanisms by which cellular metabolism directs cell fate decisions during embryonic development and adult liver regeneration. Understanding how metabolism influences cellular differentiation will guide our efforts to generate functional, mature cells in vitro for therapeutic applications, e.g. as a source of transplantation material for end-stage liver disease and models for drug screening.


This project will provide the PhD student with a multidisciplinary training in developmental biology, fundamental molecular biology techniques, advanced tissue culture, proteomics and cell therapy development. 

The project is funded for 3.5 years and welcomes applicants from the UK 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 £15,609 per annum for 2021/22. 

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

Applications for a PhD in Biological Sciences should be submitted online at:

https://studentrecords.soton.ac.uk/BNNRPROD/bzsksrch.P_Login?pos=7187&majr=7187&term=202122 - please place Nicole Prior in the field for proposed supervisor.  

General enquiries should be made to Dr Nicole Prior at N.R.J.Prior@soton.ac.uk. Any queries on the application process should be made to fels-pgr-apply@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 the School of Biological Sciences both hold an Athena Swan Silver Award, 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.

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