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The molecular basis of glial cell heterogeneity in human brain

Principal Supervisor: Professor Jose Gutierrez-Marcos

Secondary Supervisor(s): Dr Robert Dallman

University of Registration: University of Warwick

BBSRC Research Themes:

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Deadline: 4 January, 2024

Project Outline

Glial cells constitute a large fraction of the mammalian brain. Although initially considered as non-functional supporter for neuron function, recent studies have revealed that glial cells have critical roles in the brain under both physiological and pathological conditions. Glial-cell pathology is increasingly recognized in several neurodegenerative diseases and in the occurrence of brain tumours. However, the existences of highly heterogeneous glial populations in the brain have limited functional studies.

The aim of this project is (i) to determine the genetic heterogeneity of glial cells in different brain tissues and (ii) identify the genetic factors determining the identity of distinct glial populations. Using computational and experimental approaches, the student will investigate the transcriptional profile of glial-cell populations, determine the genetic pathway(s) implicated in distinct glial identity and use targeted genome editing to reveal their function.


Krishnaswami, S.R. et al., Using single nuclei for RNA-seq to capture the transcriptome of postmortem neurons (2016) Nature Protocols 11:499-524


The student will gain skills in single-cell transcriptomic analysis of message RNA and non-coding RNAs. The student will be able to analyse next-generation sequencing (NGS) data to generate hypothesis that will be tested in the laboratory using established CRISPR/Cas9 genome targeting methods. The student is expected to obtain basic training on computational and statistical tools for analysis of genome-wide data.

Lab-Techniques: scRNA-seq, cell culture, CRISPR. Computational-techniques: Wide range of bioinformatics tools for Next-Generation-Sequence data analysis.