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WCPRS/CWPS Funded PhD Studentship

A collaboration between the Division of Translational and Systems Medicine, Warwick Medical School and Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Service

Project Title:

Maternal epigenetic modifications as a potential biomarker of perinatal depression

  • Perinatal depression has profound consequences on the quality of family life, social functioning, fetus development and long-term emotional and cognitive development of the progeny. Clearly, management and outcomes would benefit from early identification of women at risk in order to introduce appropriate lifestyle changes and therapeutic interventions. Abnormal stress-driven hormonal responses appear to be involved in the pathogenesis of depression. At present, there is a paucity of suitable biomarkers to detect presence of the underlying disease and hormonal over-activity of the HPA ‘stress’ axis.
  • The purpose of this project is to test the hypotheses that:
    1. Patients with genetic susceptibility for perinatal depression and/or abnormal B12/folate levels exhibit differences in DNA methylation in maternal blood during pregnancy, and abnormal levels of circulating hormones, cytokines and neurosteroids
    2. the combined use of biochemical endocrinology, genetics and epigenetic markers as biological indicators of disease can predict development of depression during pregnancy and postnatally.

This multidiscipline project will:

  • Employ both targeted and discovery experimental approaches: it will focus on the methylation status of candidate targets and test their potential as biomarkers of perinatal depression
  • Develop innovative laboratory methods such as methylation-specific qPCR; high-throughput discovery methods involving methylated DNA immunoprecipitation and next gen sequencing to identify novel gene methylation targets (in collaboration with Monash)

We envisage that the project will have a major impact in the diagnosis and treatment of perinatal depression since early identification of patients with depression will trigger implementation of therapeutic approaches.

The successful candidate will develop expertise in various techniques including genomic DNA extraction, molecular biology, DNA methylation assays, next gen sequencing, ELISA and innovative PCR methods.

The successful candidate will join a vibrant and expanding research team at the University of Warwick within the Division of Translational and Systems Medicine. The student will also be part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Service, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

The academic supervisors will be Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Dr Ponnusamy Saravanan, Division of Translational and Systems Medicine, Warwick Medical School.

The successful candidate will be expected to start in October 2015 and will be located at Clinical Science Research Laboratories at UHCW NHS Trust.

Applicants should have a good biomedical, physiology, molecular biology, sciences degree.

This studentship is available to Home and EU students, according to fee status, who meet Research Council eligibility requirements based on residency. The studentship includes full fees for the successful candidate along with a tax free maintenance allowance in line with Research Council UK standard stipend (£14,057 for the year 2015/16). The studentship also includes consumables funding.

The closing date for applications is 10 July 2015. Interviews will be held on 20 August 2015 at the Clinical Science Research Laboratories in University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

Please contact Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos for further information about the research project:

Papers and a summary of the research group activity can be found here:

To formally apply, please send a copy of your Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a one page personal statement at clearly stating the studentship you are applying for.