The nervous system is wired by cable-like cellular protrusions called axons which form synapses with distant partner cells and can therefore be meters (!) long. To uphold brain function, these delicate structures need to be maintained for decades in the ageing brain, and they have to regenerate after damage (a process which involves controlled degeneration). The mechanisms of axon maintenance and controlled degeneration are not understood, but are believed to relate to the cytoskeleton: in particular to bundles of filamentous microtubules which form the structural backbone and highways for life-sustaining transport between neuronal cell bodies and their distant synapses. We pioneer this field of studies through using the fruit fly Drosophila which offers enormously powerful genetic and experimental strategies. Through using flies, we were able to unravel several candidate mechanisms and develop a working model for the above phenomena. Work in the laboratory is now dedicated to testing this model and exploring its relevance for mammalian neurobiology.
You can be part of this exciting pioneering endeavour which is of enormous biomedical relevance, when considering the social burden of age- or injury-related nervous system disorders. You will work in a fully equipped laboratory, in a large faculty providing rich opportunities to interact and first-class core facilities (imaging, EM, biomolecular analysis; http://www.ls.manchester.ac.uk/research/facilities/). Your project will be interdisciplinary, providing excellent training opportunities including fly genetics (as pioneered by us: http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.106631), molecular biology, biochemistry, primary neuron cultures, state-of-the-art fluorescent and in vivo imaging (including super-resolution microscopy) and, depending on your topic choice, also material science/biophysical approaches and/or electron microscopy.
You will be provided with excellent training in transferable skills and inspiring project supervision, but you need to be motivation-driven and able to take ownership of your research, thus actively helping us to achieve the overarching objectives of our work.
- Prokop, A. (2013). The intricate relationship between microtubules and their associated motor proteins during axon growth and maintenance. Neur Dev 8, 17 -- http://www.neuraldevelopment.com/content/8/1/17
- Prokop, A., Beaven, R., Qu, Y., Sánchez-Soriano, N. (2013). Using fly genetics to dissect the cytoskeletal machinery of neurons during axonal growth and maintenance. J. Cell Sci. 126, 2331-41 -- http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.126912