Role of the extracellular matrix in adipose tissue dysfunction and obesity-related alterations

Liverpool John Moores University

About the Project

The successful candidate will join our growing postgraduate community in the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences (BES) and will work under the supervision of Dr Fatima Perez de Heredia (BES) and Dr Darren Sexton (School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences) from Liverpool John Moores University, and Dr Kevin Hamill and Dr Carl Sheridan from the Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences of the University of Liverpool.

The project will focus on the cellular mechanisms contributing to the pathogenesis of obesity. Obesity is one of the main public health problems worldwide, and a main risk factor for chronic diseases, e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, or dementia. We know that adipose tissue dysfunction is a major player in obesity pathogenesis, but a deeper understanding of the physiological alterations of this tissue in obesity is still required. Research on the role of adipose tissue-secreted hormones and cytokines is growing exponentially, but that of the adipose cells environment, that is, the extracellular matrix (ECM), is comparatively less well known; yet, ECM proteins modulate key cell functions, including differentiation, metabolic rate, and migratory behaviour. In adipose tissue, this can mean the formation of new fat-storing cells, adipocyte metabolism, and migration of immune cells into the tissue to sustain an inflammatory response. Indeed, certain ECM proteins have been linked to obesity resistance or to morbid obesity. Characterising ECM proteins in adipose tissue dysfunction and how they influence adipose cells will help understand better the development of inflammation and stress in adipose tissue in obesity and open the way for novel therapeutic targets.

In this project, we will investigate the links between adipose cells and their ECM under conditions mimicking those in obesity, i.e., inflammation and oxidative stress, and the potential of dietary components with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to ameliorate stress-induced alterations. We will use a wide range of techniques in tissue culture, gene expression analysis and protein expression analysis. The successful candidate will also have the opportunity to develop a wider range of scientific skills, including academic writing, data analysis, oral presentation, and teamwork. They will have the opportunity as well to access a broad portfolio of training sessions and courses at LJMU, such as our post-graduate teaching-training programme, so that they can assist with teaching if desired.

The candidate will be expected to present the project results at international scientific meetings and to publish them in relevant peer-reviewed journals, so that they can build an international research profile.

Applicants should hold a master’s degree or a strong 1st class BSc degree in a relevant field (e.g., Biology, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, or related), and be able to demonstrate interest and knowledge in cell biology, physiology, nutrition and/or immunology. For non-UK candidates, English proficiency must be demonstrated. Experience of statistical analysis, demonstrable wet lab skills, and the ability to manage time efficiently and to work well as part of a team and independently are all advantageous. Full training in the project’s specific required skills will be provided by the supervisory team.

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