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EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies for a Healthy and Sustainable Future



Laura did her PhD with Dr Phil Evans, Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge, and then moved to a postdoc in the Department of Chemistry with Professor Sir Alan Fersht. She subsequently held a Beit Memorial Fellowship in Medical Research and then an MRC Career Development Award, with which she started her own group. In 2003 she moved to the MRC Cancer Cell Unit, Cambridge and briefly returned to the the Department of Chemistry before taking up a Lectureship in the Department of Pharmacology in 2013.


Forces are key to a wide variety of cellular processes, such as activation of ion channels, during chromosome segregation, and force-bearing proteins in the muscle and extracellular matrix. It is clear that specific proteins must be able to sense mechanical signals and convert them into biological responses. However, a molecular-level understanding of such processes is very limited, as accurate measurement of the forces poses significant challenges, in particular because it is currently not possible for us to build force sensor with tailored mechanical characteristics. Professor Itzhaki's lab recently discovered a class of proteins that should be able to address this challenge. These proteins are molecular “nanosprings” capable of being put together like Lego from small structural motifs into large arrays. Using these nanosprings, they hope to produce fine-tuned force sensors for diverse in-cell applications. As a PhD student in the Itzhaki lab, you would design, produce and test a range of force-sensors and characterise them biochemically. Force-spectroscopy using single-molecule optical tweezers will be used to determine the sensors' mechanical properties. To perform these experiments, you will have the opportunity to travel to the laboratory of Matthias Rief (Munich, Germany), with whom the Itzhaki Lab has a long-standing collaboration. The project will provide you with expertise in a variety of disciplines from protein design to biochemistry, single-molecule and cell biophysics.

Professor of Structural Pharmacology
Professor Laura  Itzhaki

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