Understanding embryonic muscle stem cells and their stem cell niche

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (International students only)
  • Department: School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Susanne Dietrich, Dr Colin Sharpe

Project code: PHBM3820218 - This project is only open to International (non-EU) students.

Project description

Skeletal muscle allows us to move and live an independent life style. Muscle can regenerate from in-built muscle stem cells, and most of the time, is a trouble-free organ. In muscle disease such as muscular dystrophies, or when large portions of muscle are lost in an accident, regeneration fails. Therefore, efforts are being made to develop muscle stem cells for transplantation into a patient.

Adult muscle stem cells prefer a quiescent state and do not grow well in culture. Yet they are derived from embryonic muscle stem cells which are very active cells, delivering large muscle masses and adult muscle stem cells in a short period of time. This project aims to understand the properties of embryonic muscle stem cells and their specific stem cell niche to establish, whether the recapitulation of embryo-like conditions might improve adult cells considered for therapy.

Muscle and muscle stem cell development is the well-conserved across vertebrates. In this project, we will use the early Xenopus and the chicken embryo in the egg as a model. We will perform RNAseq experiments to establish the molecular signature of the embryonic muscle stem cells. We will challenge the cells in vivo with a variety of molecular constructs to explore, how well their stem cell state is protected. We will molecularly manipulate cells considered for therapy and graft them into the embryonic environment and test whether this improves the proliferative profile of the adult cells.

The projects combines a variety of approaches in cell, molecular and developmental biology, including construct design, embryo and cell culture, microinjection/ micromanipulation, in ovo electroporation, in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, RNAseq experiments and bioinformatics. 

 Supervisor profiles

Dr Susanne Dietrich

Dr Colin Sharpe

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Susanne Dietrich at Susanne.Dietrich@port.ac.uk (02392 842959) or Dr Colin Sharpe at colin.sharpe@port.ac.uk (02392 842022).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact sci-pgr-enquiries@port.ac.uk.

How to Apply

You can apply online at www.port.ac.uk/applyonline. You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at www.port.ac.uk/pgapply.

When applying, please quote project code: PHBM3820218.

Interview date: TBC

Start date: October 2018.

Funding notes

This project is only open to International (non-EU) students.

Eligible applicants will be considered for the Portsmouth Global PhD scholarship scheme.

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