Hybrid synapse for vision

PhD fellow in Hybrid synapse for vision
Project title: Building hybrid synapses as a therapeutic strategy for photoreceptor degeneration

Background: Degenerative diseases of the retina hit light-sensitive photoreceptors and leave inner retinal neurons deprived of light-dependent synaptic input. This project targets to stimulate neurons with a drastically novel method that can go beyond single cell resolution to recreate lost synaptic connections with "hybrid nanosynapses": surviving retinal neurons will be interfaced with plasmonic nanochannels filled with smart polymers able to release neurotrasmitter in response to optical stimuli. The synergistic combination of the proposed technologies paves the way for the breakthrough development of retinal prosthetics able to rescue the natural cell-specific connectivity of the inner retinal neurons.

Description. The recipient of the fellowship will join our team to realize and study innovative hybrid synaptic connections to integrate neuronal losses caused by neurodegenerative diseases. The project aims at the development and characterization of a device able to release glutamate upon illumination by a plasmonic enhancement of electromagnetic radiation. These opto-neural interfaces will be tested on neural cells and tissues in vitro and ex vivo. In particular, the candidate will be in a unique position to exploit recent advances in the development of nano-tools able to elicit light-driven stimulation of dystrophic neural tissue, such as a degenerated retina in the framework of a dedicated research line on “Neuroscience and Smart Materials”. This position will allow the candidate to join a multidisciplinary team (medicine, biology, physics and chemistry) with the final aim of translating the photosensitive nanotechnology into a therapeutic tool

Main Supervisor: Elisabetta Colombo (Neuroscience and Smart Materials)

Essential expertise:

  1. Background in Biomedical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry or Biology/Biotechnology.
  2. In vitro or ex vivo experimental work (electrophysiology, tissue engineering
  3. Retina/vision field experience
  4. Data analysis

Desirable expertise:

  1. Confocal microscopy and immuno-istochemistry
  2. Photophysics and optics
  3. Electron microscopy
  4. Animal handling 

How to apply. Prospective students must submit using the online form the following documents 

  1. 2-page CV, which includes studies, expertise and achievements;
  2. 1-page research statement, which includes the choice of a project from the list above and a justification of the choice. Only if robustly justified, the student may signal their interest also for a second project, but there is no guarantee that this will be taken into account by the selection panel;
  3. a transcript of undergraduate and postgraduate studies;
  4. a valid IELTS certificate, obtained no more than two years before the proposed registration date.
  5. contact details of two referees.

Deadline for application: 4th of October 2021.