Stem Cell Engineering for Neural Disease Modeling and Tissue Repair Scholarship provided by DAAD/FW Hempel Family-Foundation

The Department of Preclinical Research (director Ulf Kahlert, PhD) at the Clinic for Neurosurgery, Medical Faculty of the Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany (HHU) is offering a position of:
1x PhD student

to contribute to bench-to bedside, clinical translational research in the context of brain diseases to the earliest possibility. The advertised project is in cooperation and co-supervision of the PhD candidate with Piotr Walczak, Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of Polish Academy of Sciences, Olsztyn, who also is appointed as an Associate Professor of Radiology in Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, USA.

Activities and responsibilities

Project info:
Cardinal characteristics of stem cells are the ability to i) differentiate into specific cell types as well as ii) the ability to self-renew by asymmetric cell division. Those features are fundaments of using stem cells in tissue repair but also ii) to be the cause of malignant cancer development (transformed cancer stem cells as cell of origin of tumors).
The transcriptional activator ZEB1 promotes tumor forming capacities in context of many tissues, including the brain. Also the migratory capacity non-transformed of glial and neural progenitors seems to be promoted by ZEB1. The tight control of intrinsic ZEB1 activation may therefore be a key determinator whether neural stem cells can successfully be used in neural repair or may cause tumorigenic risk.
Administration of therapeutics into the brain is challenged by the complexity of the organ. Poor penetration of therapeutic agents across the BBB is a major obstacle for therapy of brain diseases. More effective routes of delivery of are needed. Dr. Walczak and his team have developed an ultra-effective, real-time image-guided, catheter-mediated intracerebral treatment application using intra-arterial application. This method has been used to high efficiently deliver pharmaceuticals or biologics, including stem cells, to the central nervous system.

The project has the following core aims:
Aim 1: Genetically engineer neural stem cells from different sources (rodent and human, fetal-derived or from induced pluripotent stem cells) to activate ZEB1 expression upon exogenous stimulation (=inducible system)
Aim 2: Assess the phenotypic consequences of altered ZEB1 expression in those cells testing differentiation capacity, motility, cell growth and clonogenicity
Aim3: Apply ZEB1-NSCs in vivo. Here the use of rodents and large animals resembling degenerative disease conditions are envision.
Aim 1 and 2 are expected to mainly be executed in Germany, Aim 3 (year 3 of the PhD work) abroad in in vivo state of the art expertise.

More scientific information on the topic can be found under:, .

Qualification profile

The payment is on DAAD scholarship level (approx. 1200 EUR/month) and requires the candidate to have obtained the majority of their education outside of Germany (Bildungsausländer).


We offer:
Interdisciplinary team work: Several subgroups of the department interactively work together on questions in the fields of biomarker discovery, onco disease modeling and neuro degeneration. The research team consists of MD-students, PhD- students, PostDocs and a technician and various state-of-the-art molecular and cell biological tools are established. The lab team closely interacts with the clinical team of the clinic to receive patient material if needed.
Financial support: monthly stipend rate on DAAD level (approx. 1250 EUR) for the first 24 months (=Friedrich Wilhelm Hempel Scholarship), 3rd year financing is envisioned through internal sources or further grant support during the course of the project, travels to academic conferences, support for relocation to Germany.
Official enrollment in PhD program of the HHU including access and obligations to all offers of the PhD curriculum.
Please send your application as one PDF to .

Send application to

Candidate Selection:
Dr. Ulf Kahlert
Preclinical Research
Neurosurgical Clinic
Medical Faculty
Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf

While applying for the job please refer to jobvector and use the following reference number: DAAD/FWH 2

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