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PhD student ‘Restore fertility in male childhood cancer survivors’

Apply before: 8 March 2019
Type of Employment: Fixed Term Contract
Working hours: 36 hours per week
Discipline: AMC Medical Research (AMR)

What you are going to do

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate who will become part of the team to develop new fertility treatments for male childhood cancer survivors in the coming 4 years.

Life expectancy of children with cancer has continuously improved over the past few decades to the current 5-year event-free survival rate of 78%. Given this success, late effects are becoming increasingly important. Especially those that had undergone high dosage of chemotherapy or irradiation are at high risk of fertility problems. Adult men can cryopreserve sperm before cancer treatment. However, since the process of sperm production has not commenced in prepubertal boys, this is not an option. As a consequence these patients are condemned to a life without biologically own children. A solution for these prepubertal male cancer patients is to cryopreserve a testicular biopsy before cancer treatment to hopefully restore fertility in the future by transplantation of testicular stem cells or tissue from this biopsy.

Even though fertility preservation programs have been implemented in several countries including the Netherlands, there is currently no technique clinically available to actually restore fertility in male childhood cancer survivors. Different experimental techniques are in development, of which testicular transplantation of spermatogonial stem cells is considered to be close to clinical implementation.

The project:
To establish autotransplantation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCT) in the clinic, an efficient, xeno-free and clinical grade culture system needs to be developed to propagate spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs). You will first focus on the efficient proliferation and purification methods of SSCs, which seem most crucial and challenging for the human situation. Based on transcriptomic analyses we will identify the pathways to trigger proliferation and characterization of the SSCs during culture. In the last part of the project you will be involved in the advanced cell therapeutic production of human SSCs for clinical implementation of SSCT in the Netherlands

What we expect from you

We are seeking a full time PhD candidate with an MSc-degree in stem cells, development, biology, biomedical sciences or equivalent. This candidate should have a strong interest in stem cell biology, human reproductive biology and/or andrology and have sufficient experience with standard laboratory techniques. Experience in culture of (embryonic) stem cells is considered an asset. Creativity and ability to think outside the box are key characteristics of our ideal candidate. The candidate should have excellent communication skills in English and have an open attitude to collaborate with other researchers. Given the potential clinical implementation of this technique, Dutch speaking PhD candidates or those willing to learn Dutch are encouraged to apply.

Where you are going to work

The Reproductive Biology Laboratory in the Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Amsterdam UMC, location AMC is part of the Amsterdam Reproduction & Development Research Institute.
Our research group is considered to be one of the pioneers within the field of male fertility preservation research worldwide. In 2009 our group was the first to show that human SSCs isolated from adult testis can indeed proliferate in vitro. We have continued on this line of research that resulted in the successful development of a propagation system of SSCs from prepubertal human testis in 2011. Furthermore, we reported on eliminating leukemic cells from testicular cell during SSC propagation in vitro. Moreover, we have studied the safety of the testicular biopsy surgery in prepubertal boys, the safety of SSCT for the recipient in a mouse model and have developed a blueprint on how to test health of offspring derived using novel reproductive techniques such as SSCT.
The research group has a strong translational character and has an excellent track record of supervising PhD students. In this project you will collaborate with an experienced postdoctoral researcher.

What we offer you

We offer a full time 1 year PhD contract with extension to 4 years after positive evaluation. According the CAO UMC we offer a standard PhD student salary ranging from €2357,- gross per month in year 1 to € 3020,- gross per month in year 4 based on a full-time contract (1.0 fte, 36 hours/week).

For an overview of all our other terms of employment, see www.werkenbijamc.nl/arbeidsvoorwaarden-amr

Let’s meet / Your application

If you would like to apply directly, please use the ‘apply’ button on this page.

If you would like more information, please feel free to contact Dr. Callista Mulder, via c.l.mulder@amc.uva.nl. Or contact Prof. Dr. Ans van Pelt, via a.m.vanpelt@amc.uva.nl.

We look forward to meeting you!

A screening and/or medical examination may be part of the selection procedure. This requires access to DigiD.