Two postdoctoral positions to study the molecular and cellular mechanism of brain development and cancer is available at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, USA. The neocortex, the seat of complex behavior, cognition, and intellect, is tremendously expanded and folded in certain mammals including humans. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this neocortical expansion and folding (gyrencephaly). We have shown that Hedgehog signaling promotes gyrencephaly and generated the first transgenic murine model for gyrencephaly, where the small and smooth murine neocortex becomes large and folded one with anatomical and developmental hallmarks of gyrencephalic brains (Wang et al., Nature Neuroscience, 2016). We also use human cerebral organoids and a naturally gyrencephalic model organism, to extend our findings in murine models to naturally gyrencephalic species. Using these models we identified several genes that may play key roles in expansion and folding of the neocortex. We seek candidates who will (1) study the function of these identified genes in neocortical expansion and folding or (2) investigate the development and function of expanded and folded cortical area in a mutant murine model at the cellular, anatomical, physiological, and behavioral levels.
Another research focus is the function of primary cilia and Hedgehog signaling in cancer. Primary cilia play critical roles in multiple signaling pathways and cell cycle progression. We have shown that primary cilia can either promote or prevent cancer depending on the initiating oncogenic mutation (Han et al., Nature Medicine 2009). Recently, we showed that Hedgehog signaling controls protein translation through an mTORC1/4EBP1-dependent pathway and mTORC1 can be targeted to treat medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric brain cancer (Wu et al., Dev Cell in press, DOI). Currently, we are investigating the molecular and cellular mechanism of ciliary function in medulloblastoma and the function of translational targets of Hedgehog signaling in medulloblastoma.
We seek highly motivated individuals who have a strong background and interest in development, stem cell, neuroscience, or cancer. We are particularly interested in experts in in utero gene delivery and live-cell imaging. Applicants should send a summary of previous research, curriculum vitae, and contact information for three references to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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