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Study of the ageing-related pre-mRNA splicing of the LMNA gene

Precursor messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) splicing is a cellular process in which non-coding sequences (introns) are removed and coding sequences (exons) are joined together to generate mRNA for protein production. Splicing is somewhat similar to film editing: if it is not done properly, two unmatched scenes may be stitched together in one episode, which would not make sense. In splicing, if exon-intron boundaries (splice sites) are not correctly identified, the wrong mRNA will be produced from which a faulty protein will be synthesised causing disease. The premature ageing disease, Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), originates from the mutation in exon 11 of the LMNA gene that creates a splice site which is then mistakenly used leading to production of the truncated protein, named progerin. Small amount of progerin was detected in healthy people raising the hypothesis that, with ageing, the progerin splice site is more often used triggering physiological changes that make us older.

The goal of the project is to identify the proteins that play a key role in modulating the splicing outcomes of two alternative splicing events: (i) aberrant production of progerin, causing HGPS, and (ii) alternative LMNA splicing generating lamin A and C proteins that have partially overlapping functions. Since progerin can be only produced from the pre-mRNA encoding lamin A protein, an ability to force a splicing outcome in favour to lamin C over lamin A can be potentially employed to decrease the amount of progerin. Since the proteins modulating these specific splicing outcomes are likely to affect the speed of the ageing process, the pharmaceutical targeting of these proteins - inhibition of their function by small interacting molecules -- may lead to the discovery of novel drugs capable of slowing the ageing process. Methods: DNA cloning, tissue culture transfections; in vitro pre-mRNA splicing; RNA-protein interactions; real-time PCR.

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  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

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This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.