PhD position : Embryonic development and physiopathology of the intervertebral disc 

The intervertebral disc (IVD) is a fibro-cartilage normally ensuring the function of a "mechanical stress absorber" within the vertebral column. The project aims to understand how to build up a healthy IVD and how to maintain the IVD structural integrity during adult life and through aging. The project will be achieved using (i) the mouse embryo as a model to study IVD development in vivo and (ii) our recently developed 3D organotypic model that permits long-term in vitro experimentations on notochordal cells - IVD precursor cells. Such valuable in vitro model offers the possibility to study the impact of applying mechanical and environmental constraints occurring in pathological situations.
Cell signalling involved in IVD development and homeostasis will be investigated. In particular, how the modulation of hypoxia will affect the WNT and SHH signalling pathways required during IVD development and known to maintain IVD structural integrity. The project also aims to decipher the function of the caveolins/ caveolae highly expressed in the IVD. These membrane–specific microdomains are known to regulate many signalling pathways and may control the way disc cells respond to external signal. To reach this goal, the impact of caveolin deficiency on IVD formation and physiology from embryogenesis to adult life and through aging will be explored at the whole animal level, through the use of caveolin-deficient animals.
The results should leads to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms that regulate IVD development and health. In the long term, the most relevant finding will be translated to a human disc model based on the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells with the ultimate goal to develop innovative strategies for IVD repair or regeneration.

Laboratoire : INSERM UMR 1229 / RMeS - Regenerative Medecine and Skeleton, UFR Odontologie, Université de Nantes.
Equipe : STEP, "Skeletal Tissue Engineering and Physiopathology",
Groupe : "Stem Cells and Axial Skeleton Development"
Directeur : Anne Camus (INSERM UMR 1229 / RMeS, Nantes)
Co-directeur : Soazig Le Lay (INSERM UMR 1063 – SOPAM, Angers)

We are looking for highly motivated PhD candidate, with strong motivation to carry out experimental and basic research with the use of genetically modified mouse models. A solid background in developmental biology or in stem cell biology will be the best suited for this project, although good molecular and cell biology or biochemistry background should also be suitable.
The candidate should have good communication skills, good level of english and be dynamic and interactive, willing to write scientific papers, contribute to animating team’s life.
Applicants should submit their complete application file (CV, motivation letter and contact of at least two reference scientists in one PDF file) by email to anne.camus chez and soazig.lelay chez with “PhD candidate” indicated in the subject of the email,