PhD Position in Neurites Fishing for Energy
Catholic University of Leuven Department in Biology

This PhD project will be performed in the Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration (NCDR) research group, situated within the Biology Department at KU Leuven and forming a highly qualified and multidisciplinary team with broad expertise and a longstanding track record in the field of axonal regeneration. The NCDR has a strong interest in defining cellular/molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation and regeneration in the eye/visual system of teleost fish and rodents (for more info see: The quest for neuroprotective and/or regenerative therapies to tackle neurodegenerative disorders and central nervous system (CNS) trauma is a central theme in our research. Despite intensive research efforts, induction of regeneration and subsequent functional recovery of the injured mammalian CNS remains a challenge, which makes the search for new pro-regenerative molecules essential. In contrast to mammals, teleost fish have a remarkable neurogenic and regenerative potential in their adult CNS, making them a preferred model organism in a myriad of comparative studies investigating the underlying mechanisms of successful regeneration. To tackle our research questions, we follow a multidisciplinary approach in which advanced in vivo ocular imaging technologies and visual function tests are being combined with detailed morphological phenotyping, using confocal/multiphoton/light-sheet microscopy, optical clearing and time-lapse imaging, and longitudinal and post-mortem morphometrical analyses to follow inflammatory and de/regenerative processes. Besides, ex vivo/in vitro retinal tissue/cell cultures, state-of-the-art opto- & chemogenetic, cell sorting and (single-cell) omics approaches are available to further study the cellular and molecular pathways underlying neuroprotection/regeneration. All research runs within the ‘Vision Core Leuven’, a preclinical animal platform which brings together cutting-edge technologies within the field of ocular imaging, electrophysiology and visual function testing in laboratory animals (see:


Brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders represent a growing socio-economic problem in our aging society, partly because the central nervous system (CNS) of mammals has a limited regenerative capacity. Most of the injured neurons die, and the few survivors fail to extend their axons beyond the damaged site. Despite many years of research, functional circuit regeneration is still not possible. Strikingly, up till now, dendrites and their contribution to neuronal regeneration have been largely overlooked. Nevertheless, previous investigations in the host lab suggested that dendrite remodeling is required for spontaneous regrowth of axons in the adult zebrafish CNS. This PhD project aims, using a combination of innovative approaches, to confirm this refreshing theory at single-neuron level and validate the hypothesis that a reprogramming and relocation of the neuronal energy production machinery is needed for functional circuit restoration. Thereto, sparsely-labeled transgenic zebrafish lines will be generated to study mitochondrial and metabolic processes at single-neuron level. Furthermore, potential target molecules involved in mitochondrial dynamics and bioenergetics underlying the different axonal/dendritic regrowth phases will be identified via a single-cell transcriptomic analysis. Subsequent validation of defined molecules/pathways should generate pivotal insights into how redirecting intra-neuronal energy channeling may promote neuronal repair in the mammalian CNS.


- You have a PhD degree in Biology, Biochemistry, Bio-engineering, Biophysics, Biomedical Sciences or equivalent

- You have good knowledge of the English language, both spoken and written.

- You have a strong interest in neurobiology – ophthalmology.  

- You have strong interest in neurodegenerative diseases and repair strategies 

- Any prior experience in imaging, histology, molecular biology or omics analyses is an asset.

Furthermore, as a candidate

• you are well organized and eager to learn new technologies

• you are creative and goal oriented

• you have good social and  communicative skills 

• you are flexible

• you are a team player

• you are enthusiastic to obtain new expertise.


· An exciting working environment where quality, professionalism and human contacts are paramount

· The opportunity to be part of a dynamic team and provide a meaningful contribution to the identification of moleculartargets to enhance regenerative growth and reconnection, applicable to neurodegenerative diseases and promotingneural repair.

Interested applicants should send a statement of interest, CV and the contact information of 1-2 references to Lieve Moons via mail:


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Lieve Moons, tel.: +32 16 32 39 91, mail: or dr. Lies De Groef, tel.: +32 16 37 37 64, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than April 30, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: April 30, 2021
  • Tags: Biologie

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Bioloxy


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