Platelets, the 2nd most abundant cell in the blood, play an essential role in cardiovascular disease. The study of platelets could however also be useful to create novel insights in our understanding of human pathology in other clinical disciplines such as neurology, endocrinology and metabolic diseases. Platelets are easily accessible cells and multiple techniques are available to study platelet function under basal and activated conditions. Defects in platelet adhesion, G protein signalling and secretion can result from mutations in platelet-specific genes leading to isolated thrombopathies or from mutations in widely expressed genes leading to broader clinical phenotypes including platelet defects. Platelets share several biological features with neurosecretory cells, such as a common gene expression profile, similarities in receptor expression, granule composition and secretory machinery. Genetic defects that influence neuronal signaling can therefore likewise interfere with platelet function. Initial studies have indeed confirmed structural and secretion abnormalities in platelets from patients with diverse neuropathology's (including autism). This project aims to combine functional and morphological platelet studies with Whole Genome Sequencing data of patients with neurological defects to identify new genes. These candidates genes will be studied using state-of-the-art in vitro studies tin platelet and neurological progenitor cells (derived from inducible pluripotent stem cells).
This project will involve experiments with patient-derived blood cells and hematopoietic and inducible pluripotent stem cells. Experimental techniques will include cell culture, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy, RNAseq, CRISPR-Cas mutagenesis, and standard biochemical/molecular approaches. You are expected to regularly present the progress of your project within the group, at lab meetings, in research seminars, and at scientific conferences. Results will be communicated to the public via written peer-reviewed articles in international journals, and culminate in the writing of a doctoral thesis.
●The candidate should have a master in the field of (bio)medical sciences or equivalent.
●The candidate has excellent communication skills in written and spoken English.
● He/she is highly motivated to work in a multidisciplinary research team, as well as independently, has an open communication style and has a problem-solving attitude.
● The candidate is expected to apply for a PhD grant at the beginning of the PhD period, for example though the Flemish research funds (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek).
● A full-time (100%) doctoral fellowship for one year (which will be extended after positive evaluation).
● Enrollment in the Doctoral School of Biomedical Sciences at KU Leuven
● Access to state-of-the-art technologies and a rich training environment