The integrity of biological soft tissues is crucially dependent on how cells maintain their surroundings and themselves. Yet, it is unclear how the various pathways, mechanisms and regulatory loops act to achieve tissue integrity over a lifetime. Aortic aneurysm development is a life-threatening process, and its clinical management brings a huge opportunity both practically as well as intellectually to study the fundamental aspects of tissue integrity. The Human Measurement Models 2.0 project CELLSYSTEMICS aims to characterise in direct clinical context the cellular system dynamics that govern tissue integrity, utilising patient imaging, diseased tissue materials, and blood samples.
This PhD project is particularly focused on the phenotyping as well as modulation of the biological and mechanobiological properties of smooth muscle cells (SMCs). The project will involve primary and induced pluripotent stem cell SMCs, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, stretch-culturing, and Western blotting, RNA-sequencing, cell stiffness by dynamic indentation, and dynamic responses to stretch (Flexcell, nano-indentation). An interdisciplinary approach and attitude will be crucial to integrate and develop the various methodologies, devices, and protocols into the world’s first platform of its kind.
The successful applicant will be hosted by the Departments of Biomedical Engineering (Dr. Koen Reesink) and Biochemistry (Prof. Leon Schurgers), in collaboration with Cardiothoracic Surgery (Dr. Elham Bidar). The host research group is interdisciplinary, and using the research infrastructure of the CARIM School for Cardiovascular diseases and the Heart+Vessel Center, both part of Maastricht UMC+. Furthermore, the successful applicant will benefit from the friendly and inclusive culture of the group and laboratories with a highly motivating working environment in the city of Maastricht. The project is a collaboration with a control systems engineering group (TU/e) and 6 private partners, including 5 biomed-tech companies and a patient organization. Regular interactions with another CELLSYSTEMICS PhD candidate and team at TU/e, Eindhoven will be very important and facilitated.
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