Neural crest stem cells in development, tissue regeneration, and melanoma formation
Switzerland (Swimsa) - University of Zurich, Zurich
Institue of Anatomy, Division of Stem Cell Biology
Prof. Dr. Lukas Sommer
Prof. Dr. Lukas Sommer, Dr. Salome Stierli
-8 weeks
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Type of Research Project
- Basic science
What is the background of the project?
Neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) represent one of the cell populations in vertebrate embryos with the broadest developmental potential. Indeed, NCSCs generate cell types as diverse as peripheral neurons, peripheral glia, smooth muscle cells in the cardiovascular system, craniofacial bone and cartilage, melanocytes, and others. It is assumed that a third of all congenital birth defects are due to failures in NCSC development, illustrating the significance of this stem cell population. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that an embryonic NCSC gene expression signature is re-activated upon melanoma initiation, metastasis formation, and therapy resistance, suggesting a functional involvement of a NCSC program in tumors originating from neural crest derivatives. Likewise, we have recently shown that neural crest-derived peripheral nerve cells in the skin adopt NCSC-like features upon injury to support wound healing. Thus, it is important to study NCSC biology and to characterize “NCSC states” in development, disease, and regeneration.
What is the aim of the project?
We aim to explore how NCSC maintenance vs. specification into multiple distinct cell types is regulated at the transcriptional, epigenetic, and post-transcriptional level and how these processes might be implicated in tumorigenesis and tissue regeneration.
What techniques and methods are used?
State-of-the-art technologies in transcriptomics combined with chromatin accessibility studies and translatome analyses will be applied to allow discovery of new cellular states, for instance in human embryonic stem cell (hES)- derived NCSC culture systems or in genetically engineered mouse models of melanoma formation or skin wound healing. Genetic cell tracing, cell sorting, and imaging technologies are applied to monitor NCSC-like cells and their environment during tissue regeneration and tumorigenesis.
What is the role of the student?
- If the project includes “lab work”
- the student will take active part in the practical aspect of the project
- The tasks will be done under supervision
What are the tasks expected to be accomplished by the student?
Observing and active participation in technologies required for the project (such as tissue and cell preparations, transcriptomics, microscopy imaging, etc). Depending on the final project to be chosen with the student, support in hES-derived culture IFMSA International Secretariat, c/o IMCC, Nørre Allé 14, 2200 København N., Denmark systems or in work with genetically engineered mouse models (melanoma models; skin wound healing models).
Will there be any theoretical teaching provided (preliminary readings, lectures, courses, seminars etc)
Scientific literature; participation at regular group meetings
What is expected from the student at the end of the research exchange? What will be the general outcome of the student?
- The student will prepare a presentation
- The student’s name will be mentioned in a future publication
- The student will have the opportunity to present the results together with the supervisor at a conference
What skills are required of the student? Is there any special knowledge or a certain level of studies needed?
Subjects passed: physiology, endocrinology
Are there any legal limitations in the student’s involvement
Students must have own malpractice and liability insurance
Type of students accepted
This project accepts:
- Medical students
- Graduated students (less than 6 months)
- Students in biomedical fields