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Making ears from multipotent progenitor cells

*Please note, this project is self-funded*

Project details

Supervisor: Professor Andrea Streit

Funding: Self-funded

Application deadline: Open until a suitable candidate is found

Reference number: 2017/DI/13 

Project description

One of the key questions in biology is to uncover how cells with the same genomic information become different from each other. This is not only important to understand embryo development, but also to determine what goes wrong in disease, how we can use this information to promote tissues regeneration or to reprogram cells for stem cell-based therapies. This project explores how stem cells in the embryo generate the ear, the sense organ responsible for sound and balance, using a systems biology approach.

While some of the molecular players that control ear commitment are already known, their hierarchy and interactions are poorly studied. Therefore, the student will determine sets of genes that define specific stages during the transition from stem cell to definitive ear cell, as well as the epigenetic mechanisms that control their expression. S/he will then use gain- and loss-of-function approaches, combined with the analysis of hundreds of genes in the same sample, to establish the time course and sequence of gene action and their mutual regulation. Ultimately, this approach will generate a “wiring diagram” for how cells become committed as ear cells and this will serve as a road map to design ways to reprogram cells as ear or specific cell types within the ear.

In addition to acquiring knowledge about ear biology and stem cell commitment, the student will learn modern molecular biology techniques like next generation sequencing, ChIP- or ATACseq, the relevant analysis tools, epigenetic approaches, as well as cellular, developmental and molecular tools to manipulate gene function in vivo and quantify gene expression. The Department of Craniofacial Development & Stem Cell Biology runs an established PhD programme including lecture courses, training on project design and development, and project-specific training, as well as training in transferable skills. It provides a vibrant and international environment, with multiple opportunities for collaborations and exchange, and for presenting research at international meetings.

To view entry requirements and further course information, see the Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD. 

Next steps

How to apply

Please apply online at following these steps:

  1. Register a new account/login
  2. Once logged in, select Create a new application
  3. Enter ‘Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time/Part-time)' under Choose a programme. Please ensure you select the correct mode of study
  4. Select a start date from the list under Entry requirements on this webpage.

Please note: Applicants must include the project reference number in the 'Research proposal' section of the application.

Contact for further information

Professor Andrea Streit (

Related division Craniofacial Development and Stem Cell Biology.

Back to Research Projects main page.

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