PhD Position in Endothelial Cell Heterogeneity
Catholic University of Leuven Department of Cardiovascular Sciences

A PhD position in the context of an FWO research project is available in the Endothelial Cell Biology Research Unit, headed by Prof. Aernout Luttun, at the Center for Molecular and Vascular Biology, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, KU Leuven, Belgium. The host lab, together with other labs working on various cardiovascular research topics, is located at Campus Gasthuisberg, in close vicinity to the University Hospital. The project is related to understanding vascular diseases with a focus on endothelial cells and the specific characteristics these cells adopt during peripheral arterial disease. We will use single-cell RNA sequencing combined with (transgenic) mouse models as a means to unravel the changes in the cellular landscape and molecular signatures invoked by the disease.


Background and aims of the project:

Our cardiovascular system is the first organ to develop and diseases affecting it remain the leading death cause worldwide. A prime factor to consider when designing treatments is that our vascular tree has an arterial and a venous arm, each coated on the inside by a monolayer of endothelial cells with distinct characteristics. An important consequence of this endothelial cell heterogeneity is that diseases are most often restricted to a particular vascular bed. Peripheral arterial disease specifically affects our arteries and is caused by an upstream atherosclerotic obstruction of a feeding artery triggering downstream redirection of blood flow through collateral arteries as a way to resolve impaired oxygen delivery. For an integral understanding of peripheral arterial disease, knowledge is required about both the upstream and downstream arterial events. While previous findings of the host lab have revealed that deficiency for a novel arterial transcription factor compromises arterial flow recovery, it is unknown whether deficiency for this transcription factor also affects the upstream atherosclerosis process. Here, we will use single-cell RNA sequencing, (electron) microscopy and histology to (i) unravel the mechanisms behind the upstream and downstream events occurring during peripheral arterial disease in mice; (ii) investigate by using transgenic mice how these mechanisms are perturbed by (endothelial) deficiency for this novel transcription factor; (iii) where possible, validate our findings in human arterial tissue. Altogether, we expect this integrated approach will offer clues to develop more effective peripheral arterial disease treatments.


you will have a dedicated project related to the aims described above and be responsible for its administration and execution
you will be interacting and collaborating with other team members working on endothelial heterogeneity in the host lab and also with colleagues from neighboring labs working on projects related to cardiovascular disease
you will be expected to present your work at internal and external (inter)national meetings


Candidates need to have a master degree in (bio)medical sciences or equivalent.
Having a good background and possibly experience (e.g. through your master thesis) in preferably multiple aspects mentioned in the project description above is an added value.
Candidates are highly motivated, enthusiastic and able to work in a multidisciplinary research team, as well as independently, and have a problem-solving attitude.
Candidates have excellent communication and writing skills in English.


The position is available for one year, which can be extended pending satisfactory progress. The candidate is expected to compete for a scholarship during the first year.
The candidate will be enrolled in the Doctoral School of Biomedical Sciences at KU Leuven.
The candidate will have access to state-of-the-art technologies and a rich training environment.


For more information, please contact Applications should be sent by email and include a CV, motivation letter, and at least 1 reference and corresponding contact information.

You can apply for this job no later than June 15, 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: June 15, 2021
  • Tags: Cardiovasculaire wetenschappen

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