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Central Nervous system Gene therapy to treat obesity Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS). Analysis of the BBS brain development

Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a debilitating, often life-limiting heritable multisystem disorder caused by dysfunction of non-motile cilia (ciliopathy). There is currently no cure for BBS, a disease characterised by early onset blindness, severe obesity, complex endocrine dysfunction, cognitive impairment and renal failure. Obesity, learning difficulties and behavioural deficits in BBS patients are always being linked to Central Nervous System (CNS) dysfunction.

It has been reported CNS abnormalities in brain patients and adult BBS mouse models. Those morphological defects usually consist in enlarged ventricles and reduced mass of the hippocampus and striatum. However, it is unknown the development and/or degeneration of those affected brain areas and it is also not clear how their disruption modulate the phenotype in BBS animal models. Studying the hippocampal-hypothalamic regions development in Bbs1 and Bbs5 mutant mice lines will help to understand how the BBS genes regulate these pathways.

Our group is developing gene therapy protocols in order to treat BBS patients. We are using Bbs1M390R/M390R knock-in mice as an animal model to test our viral constructs. We design Adeno-associated virus (AAV) to transduce a BBS1 human copy delivered intracranially. There are different features that can be checked on those animals to analyse the efficacy of the gene therapy; from the recovery of the retinal thickness or the recovery of the animal weight. However, we lack of a robust molecular readout to monitor if the treatment is efficient in the CNS.

The aim of this project is to find features that can be quantified to be used in the future to test the efficacy of treatments. We will analyse the differences between mutants and control brains, studying a time series including juvenile and mature brains. We will focus specially in the treatment of hippocampal and hypothalamic areas that have been shown to possibly be affected in BBS patients. Details of the project can be asked in advanced.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  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: 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%.