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Live imaging of growing dermal bone: a novel model system in development and evolution

Principal Supervisor: Professor Georgy Koentges, School of Life Sciences

Co-supervisor: Robin Allaby, School of Life Sciences

PhD project title: Live imaging of growing dermal bone: a novel model system in development and evolution

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Project Highlights:

  • Live imaging of cellular clones in growing bone and migration modelling
  • Evolution of hard tissues

Overview: The origin of dermal skeleton is one of the most significant evolutionary inventions deep in the gnathostome stem lineage. Amongst others we are studying the earliest biomineral which is acellular, its architecture and what it can tell us about the early origins and development of bone biomineral. In a parellel track we are investigating cell migration during the earliest development of mammalian bones. We discovered recently an invasive mechanism of bone growth which wil substantially change the way we think of bones not as hard tissues but as slow moving fluids. Using recombinase mediated fate mapping methods the student will be involved in establishing landscapes of clonal origins in live growing bone and see the patterning process in action, using novel imaging setups that we have developed and are working well. The PhD proposal will combine the two strands, grounding in Evolutinary biology (GK,RA), image generation (GK) and analysis (RA,GK). Meshing these two strands together will provide a deep mechanistic insight into the driving factors of a critical phase of vertebrate organic biomineralization and evolution.

Training and skills:

GK will provide training in evolutionary biology, cellular and evolutionary analysis, molecular biology and image analysis. RA will provide training in modelling and the application of phylogenetic analysis tools to image analysis questions of lineage. Students will learn how to harness image analysis to study cellular dispersion, integrate this with architectural (landscape’) features of biomineral and place observations into a strict phylogenetic context. Cellular modelling is a transferrable skill as it can also be used for modelling fluxes of organisms and migration patterns (Levy flights etc) through Ecosystems. Image analysis is the mainstay of state-of-the art biology applications.

Possible timeline:

Year 1: image acquisition ,learn techniques of image analysis.

Year 2: Extend data corpus and start writing manuscripts.

Year 3:, phylogenetic analysis,biomineral analysis

Further reading: provides the context of our work.

Further details:

This Phd studentship will be embedded in a longs-standing collaborative effort between our respective labs to unravel the molecular and cellular processes deep in vertebrate biomineral evolution. Please feel free to contact GK for further details on this project. Students need to enjoy sophisticated data analysis and can come from a variety of backgrounds (including engineering, maths, physics).

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Molcules, cells and systems

Contact: Professor Georgy Koentges, University of Warwick