PhD Fellowship available – micro-RNAs and extracellular vesicles as novel diagnostic and prognostic markers for the equine bloodworm

We are offering a 3 year PhD fellowship in micro-RNAs and extracellular vesicles as novel diagnostic and prognostic markers for the equine bloodworm (Strongylus vulgaris) commencing 1 January 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Our group and research

The Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences is subdivided into seven sections and the PhD fellow will be included in the Section for Medicine and Surgery based at Taastrup Campus. The Section’s priorities are clinically applied research in large animal diseases and welfare (equine, bovine and small ruminants) as well as clinical and didactic teaching.

The PhD fellow will be part of a unique, international network of dedicated researchers within equine acute gastroenterology, parasitology and clinical pathology. We are based at four different Universities (Copenhagen, Aarhus, Kentucky and Uppsala). This study rely on laboratory techniques already established (for assessment of miRNA in other species) in our group in Copenhagen and Aarhus. Relevant samples for the study are available from horses naturally infected with S. vulgaris at University of Kentucky as well as from horses infected with S. vulgaris and suffering from thromboembolic colic admitted to the two Veterinary University hospitals in Denmark and Sweden.

Project description

Strongylus vulgaris is the most pathogenic intestinal parasite in horses. It causes arteritis, thrombosis of mesenteric arteries and intestinal infarcts, which may lead to intestinal rupture and death of the horse. Prevalence has increased in Scandinavia in recent years, perhaps related to restricted drug use. This study aims to improve early identification of horses infected with the parasite or horses with thromboembolic pathology. The objectives of the study are to identify extracellular vesicles containing proteins and miRNAs excreted from intravascular migrating S. vulgaris larvae and miRNAs from the horse associated to vascular injury and thrombosis. These investigations will lead not only to understanding of disease mechanisms, but also serve to identify novel diagnostic markers of migrating S. vulgaris and support earlier and more targeted treatment strategies. Improved diagnostic, preventive and treatment options will support the legislative prescription-only use of anthelmintic drugs and reduce the risk of parasites developing resistance to available drugs.

Principal supervisor is Associate Professor Tina Holberg PihlDepartment of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, thpi@sund.ku.dkDirect Phone: +45 22629325. Co-supervisors are Professor Stig Milan Thamsborg, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Professor Lise Nikolic Nielsen, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Professor Peter Lindberg Nejsum, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University.

Job description

The PhD fellow will perform the collection of larvae and blood samples at University of Kentucky and help coordinate blood sampling and data collection from horses with colic in Denmark and Sweden. The PhD fellow will participate in the laboratory work related to the EV isolation and miRNA analyses.

International travel to and stays at collaborating laboratories will be required. Full training will be available. You will also take part in limited teaching or other types of dissemination related to your project.

Key criteria for the assessment of applicants

  • Qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree in veterinary medicine (DVM)
  • Fluency in written and spoken English and Danish

Applicants with the following professional and personal qualifications will be highly advantaged:

  • High grade point average achieved
  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Experimental animal liscense
  • Published work
  • Postgraduate or relevant work experience
  • Curious mind-set with a strong interest in equine gastrointestinal medicine and parasitology
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Well-developed collaborative skills and a team player

Place of employment

The place of employment is at Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Taastrup Campus, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment. Our research facilities include modern laboratories and equine hospital facilities.


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