Neurotrophic signalling to protect neurons in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)

Project title: Neurotrophic signalling to protect neurons in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)

Reference number: 18-19-008R2

Start date: 1 October 2019

Mode of attendance: Full time only due to funder's requirements

Director of Studies: Professor Edgar Kramer 

2nd Supervisor: Professor Robert Fern

The University of Plymouth’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry is seeking a highly motivated PhD candidate with outstanding abilities and excited about studying neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease. We are committed to research excellence with a recent £25 million investment in staff and facilities. Medical research in the Faculty was ranked first for outputs in REF2014. 

The student must enjoy reading scientific papers, working in the laboratory with human and mouse tissue, and communicating experimental results in an international setting. Publications and previous experience in working on mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases are an advantage but not an essential prerequisite. Laboratory experience is essential. Interest and knowledge in electrophysiological recordings would be an additional benefit and would allow expanding the project. International students must also have an IELTS score of 6.5 or above (with no less than 6.0 in any element). 

We have shown in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) that Ret is essential to mediate GDNF’s maintenance, protection and regeneration function in these nerve cells (Kramer et al., 2007; Kowsky et al., 2007; Drinkut et al., 2016). Recent preclinical data suggest that accumulation of the protein alpha-synuclein, which is also enriched in most PD patients, could reduce the amount of Ret receptor and thereby prevent GDNF’s cell survival function. We plan to investigate Ret protein levels in PD and Dementia with Lewy body (DLB) brains. Furthermore, we will investigate the effect of Ret, alpha-synuclein and other PD-related proteins on the midbrain dopaminergic system in mice (Aron et al., 2010; Meka et al., 2015; Kramer and Liss, 2015). The detailed phenotypic analysis of these transgenic mice will help us to define the molecular crosstalk between alpha-synuclein toxicity and Ret signalling and might allow proposing novel pathways to treat PD and DLB.

For further information regarding the project, please contact Edgar Kramer.

Funding notes: The studentship is supported for three years and includes full home/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend of an estimated £15,009 per annum (based on 19/20 stipend amounts). Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (£12,285 for the 19/20 academic year). If you are selected you will be required to provide financial assurances.

To apply: Follow the link and select ‘Apply’. Please mark the application for the attention of Amber Strong. Please note: You do not need to submit a project proposal with your application. If you have any questions on the admissions process contact  

The closing date for applications is 12 midnight on 9 June 2019. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 1 September 2019 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.