Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology

Cell Biology

Further Information

Contact a supervisor for detailed information on student research projects

Assoc/Prof Silvana Gaudieri
Assoc/Prof Silvana Gaudieri

 Dr Archa Fox

Dr Archa Fox


The School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology offers a diverse range of student research topics.

Host and Viral Determinants of infection outcome

Project outline

How does the interaction between host and virus influence Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV infection outcome and disease progression? What are the genetic and immunological signatures of an effective host immune response against these viruses? These questions will be addressed utilising samples from well-characterised local and international cohorts. Samples will be assayed using next-generation sequencing and single-cell technologies, and cellular immunology tests in a state of the art laboratory that houses robotic systems for high-throughout automation. The study outcomes will hopefully be used to inform vaccine design and future immune-therapy.

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters, PhD

Supervisor
A/Prof Silvana Gaudieri

 Essential qualifications

For Honours: An appropriate undergraduate degree with  a minimum weighted average of 65% in the level 3 subjects that comprise the relevant major from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For Masters or PhD: An appropriate Honours degree  or equivalent research experience from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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Are paraspeckles involved in modulating stress-responses in pregnancy?

Project outline

It is well known that many different stressors influence gestational outcome, and that stress experienced in the womb may also influence development throughout life. Therefore there is an urgent need to better understand how stress is modulated within the uterine environment. Paraspeckles are subnuclear bodies that regulate gene expression in many cellular contexts, but particularly in response to cellular stress. Paraspeckles are a cellular structure that is built on a long noncoding RNA molecule, called NEAT1 (nuclear paraspeckle assembly transcript 1). This project will examine a role for paraspeckles in altering gene regulation in response to stress in pregnancy.

What is the evidence for a role for paraspeckles in placental response to stress? (1) NEAT1 was originally named TncRNA, or trophoblast noncoding RNA, and trophoblasts are the cell type that form the placenta, but this has never been examined in terms of paraspeckles, (2) the NEAT1 knockout mouse has defects in female reproduction, and (3) paraspeckles are most prevalent in tissues that are highly plastic in their differentiation status, as well as highly secretory, both of which are typical to the placenta.

You will use RT-qPCR to measure NEAT1 RNA levels in murine placental tissue isolated from placentas of control and stress treated pups, as well as tissue staining methods to label paraspeckles in placental tissue. You will culture the BEWO trophoblast cell line, use microscopy to examine paraspeckle abundance in normal and stress conditions. Should time permit you will measure changes in abundance of paraspeckle target genes under stress conditions, as well as ablating paraspeckles by transfecting BEWO cells with siRNA targeting NEAT1 to characterise the effect of loss of paraspeckles in trophoblasts.  

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters, PhD

Supervisor
Dr Archa Fox and Asst Prof Caitlin Wyrwoll

Essential qualifications

For Honours: An appropriate undergraduate degree with  a minimum weighted average of 65% in the level 3 subjects that comprise the relevant major from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For Masters or PhD: An appropriate Honours degree  or equivalent research experience from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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Studying the molecular glue that holds paraspeckles together    

Project outline

Paraspeckles are subnuclear RNA-protein granules that regulate gene expression in many contexts, particularly under stress conditions. We are interested in studying the underlying properties of the forces that hold paraspeckles together. They are interesting structures, as they are not enclosed in a membrane – so how do molecules get targeted there, and how are these molecules held there? It is important to understand these processes as many of the molecules found within paraspeckles are also found in pathological toxic aggregates in neurodegenerative disorders, such as motor neuron disease. We need to understand the way these molecules functionally aggregate into structures such as paraspeckles, in order to figure out why they pathologically aggregate in neurodegeneration.

In this project you will use different molecular biology techniques to create mutations in key amino acids within different paraspeckle proteins, and then transfect fluorescent protein fusions of these constructs into cultured cells to examine their paraspeckle localisation. You will use fluorescent in situ hybridisation against the paraspeckle marker NEAT1 to detect paraspeckles. You will also work in vitro to study the biophysical properties of these proteins, in collaboration with Professor Charlie Bond.

This project will yield important insights into the nature of the functional aggregation of MND-associated proteins into paraspeckles.  

Project is suitable for

Honours, Masters, PhD

Supervisor
Dr Archa Fox and Prof Charlie Bond
Essential qualifications

For Honours: An appropriate undergraduate degree with  a minimum weighted average of 65% in the level 3 subjects that comprise the relevant major from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

For Masters or PhD: An appropriate Honours degree  or equivalent research experience from an approved institution. Applicants will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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