Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces - Department of Biomaterials
The Department of Biomaterials focuses on interdisciplinary research in the field of biological and biomimetic materials. The emphasis is on understanding how the mechanical or other physical properties are governed by structure and composition and how they adopt to environmental conditions.
Master thesis at the Max Planck Institute (15h/week)
Topic: Extracellular matrix biophysical cues in breast cancer dormancy and bone metastasis
Bioengineered systems allow independent control of biophysical properties and have contributed to the understanding of how cells sense extracellular matrix (ECM) physical cues in tissue regeneration. Materials science approaches have also been used to investigate different steps in cancer progression, such as tumor growth, homing or metastasis. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-associated deaths among women worldwide. Breast cancer often metastasizes to bone, which can occur even after 10 years following tumor resection. This implies that cancer cells can undergo a dormancy phase. However, the mechanisms underlying cancer dormancy and reactivation, and in particular the role of ECM biophysical cues, are poorly understood.
Amongst various physical cues, osmotic pressure has been associated with quiescence of prostate cancer cells (Havard, JBC, 2011) and with changes in cell volume, stiffness and cell fate (Guo, PNAS, 2017). We hypothesize that changes in osmotic pressure and fluid flow, characteristic of the transcapillary driving forces in the bone marrow, have an effect in cell volume and cell cycle state. Microfluidic systems will be used to trap single cells and precisely control changes in osmotic pressure and fluid flow. Genetically modified cells with FUCCI cell cycle reporter will allow detect and quantify the state and duration of the G0-G1 quiescent cell cycle phase (red) or S-G2-M proliferative phase (green). A special emphasis is laid on interdisciplinary research so that a close collaboration with scientists working on the synthesis of organotypic cell microenvironments will be expected.
We are looking for a student with a background in materials science, biochemistry, biotechnology, biophysics or similar. Practical experience with cell culture and fluorescence microscopy is appreciated. Skills in scientific image analysis (such as Fiji) and basic knowledge of qPCR and microfluidics would be a plus. Good knowledge in English and self-motivation are required.
What we offer:
Project start: April-June 2018, 6-8 months. Possibility to apply for an extension into a PhD program.
Payment: 60 hours/month at the standard MPI student rate.
How to apply:
Please send a motivation letter explaining why you would like to join the project, your CV, a transcript of your university record and two references per email to Amaia Cipitria (firstname.lastname@example.org), indicating “Dormatrix – Master thesis application” in the subject line.