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PhD Studentship: Discovering the Neurobiology of Recovery Long After Spinal Cord Injury

King's College London - Wolfson Sensory, Pain and Regeneration Centre

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: London
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Fully funded for 3.5 years
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th April 2024
Closes: 12th May 2024
Reference: Studentship PMW-B2TF24
 

We are looking for a motivated individual to interested in performing advanced research into nerve regeneration, neuroplasticity, and muscle function, while using cutting edge physiological, imaging, fMRI, tracing, and electrophysiological methods to determine the pathways and mechanisms through which breathing is restored long after spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injury affects 30 million people worldwide. In the UK alone, 1 person receives a traumatic injury to the spinal cord every 8 seconds.

One of the most severe effects of common spinal cord injuries, is the detrimental impact they have on breathing. Sadly, over 70% of patients with spinal cord injuries die due to deficits in their ventilatory function. We have recently shown experimentally that it is possible to restore function to these damaged respiratory circuits by modifying the extracellular matrix which surrounds them. Importantly, this also helps to restore normal breathing.

It is generally thought that as more time elapses after an injury to the spinal cord, it becomes harder to restore function. However, our treatment works best when applied long after a spinal cord injury. Since this could provide more time to get suitable treatments to patients, it is essential we discover what lies behind this.

In this PhD we aim to find the mechanisms through which function can be restored to injured and paralysed motor systems long after trauma has occurred.

The PhD student will perform in vivo experiments focusing on short and long-term spinal cord injuries. They will seek to answer how and why restoration of breathing occurs long after the injury has transpired, but not in the initial days after the trauma. Finally, they will use pharmacological and genetic techniques to mimic the identified mechanisms of action within other motor pathways in the injured spinal cord which do not usually recover long after the injury (e.g. hand function). This will help establish proof-of-concept for the development a novel approach, based on this mechanism, for treating spinal cord injuries.

The student will join a diverse and dedicated young group of researchers motivated to restore motor and sensory control back to people who have suffered traumatic neurological injury or disease. They will be trained in a wide variety of techniques, experimental models, and imaging, as well as having the opportunity to travel to, and learn within our partner labs of Dr. Andrea Tradeshi (Ohio State University), contribute to papers, and present their findings at international conferences.

Informal email enquiries to Dr. Philippa Warren are encouraged from interested students. 

More info: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/study/research-funding/pmw-b2tf24

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