Spaghetti bowls and neurons: Exploring new ways to treat neuronal defects

FUNDING: 10 weeks (full time, 37 hrs per week, £10.57 per hour, £500 consumables)
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LOCATION: University of York, UK

Dr. Ines Hahn, Biology Dept., York

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Almost 20% of all children are diagnosed with developmental disabilities. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasingly common, but they are not well understood. Due to the multifactorial and complex nature of ASD, monogenic models are often used for research, in which a mutation in a known gene gives rise to an associated disease phenotype. We study the genetic disorder Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) which shows a high prevalence for both ASD and ADHD. We recently made the important discovery that loss of Nf1 leads to pathological spaghetti bowl-like unbundling of parallel bundles of microtubules in neuronal axons, a potential indicator for neuronal decay. In this project you will explore if stabilisation of microtubules can improve primary neuron defects, as well as locomotor function deficits in flies. You will be a member of the Hahn lab and receive training in combinatorial genetics, primary fly neuron cultures, drug treatments and neuronal cell analysis using fluorescence microscopy. The project is part of the lab’s larger goal to understand NF1 and explore novel therapeutic strategies. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2023.