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Molecular, Cellular and Behavioral Characterization of Prenatal Treatment Effects in Mouse Models of Down Syndrome

National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD and surrounding area

Position Description:

We are looking for an independent and highly motivated postdoctoral fellow within his two first years of PhD graduation, and who is interested in pursuing a career in translational neurogenetics. The ideal candidate will work with an interdisciplinary team working together and using in vitro and in vivo approaches to develop effective prenatal therapeutic interventions for DS. The ideal candidate will be responsible of characterizing molecular, cellular and behavioral phenotypic deficits in three different mouse models of DS. He will also be responsible of investigating the effects of prenatal treatment with candidate molecules selected for safety and efficacy in human amniocytes and neural stem cells from individuals with DS.


The ideal candidate should have expertise in:

  • Mouse behavioral testing: Using SHIRPA screen, open field, rotarod, contextual fear conditioning and Morris water maze to analyze exploratory behavior, motor coordination and learning/memory.
  • Touch screen behavioral testing: Using Lafayette mouse modular chambers to analyze human translational cognitive outcomes using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), including the visual discrimination, reversal, PAL, extinction, 5-CSRT and TUNL.
  • Live animal recording: Field recording in the cortex and hippocampus to investigate the effect of the treatment during behavioral testing.
  • Imaging and stereology: Brain sectioning (embryonic, neonatal and adult), immunohistochemistry staining with different markers of CNS cell populations and cell counting in different brain regions as well as neuronal and spines reconstruction using IMARIS.
  • Mechanistic/molecular approaches: Transcriptomics and proteomics to analyze the pathway dysregulations and the effects of the treatment using microarrays, QPCR, Western blotting…

Additional skills include:

  • Being able to independently design experiments, setup research objectives and show progress on a timely fashion.
  • Maintaining and updating experimental data in laboratory notebooks and drives.
  • Collecting, organizing and analyzing data from the daily experiments.
  • Attending educational lectures organized at NIH as appropriate for research project.
  • Submitting abstracts for international conferences and writing research progress reports and manuscripts.
  • Attending weekly laboratory meetings and presents findings to rest of the team.

To Apply:

Required Documents: Applications should include a detailed resume, a personal statement describing the candidate research interest and career goals and a minimum of two recommendation letters from former mentors.

Applications should be sent to:

Dr. Diana Bianchi

Dr. Faycal Guedj

After selection of his/her application, the candidate will go through two rounds of interviews:

1) First, a phone or conference call interview.

2) A formal visit to the National Institutes of Health and the Bianchi lab. During the second interview, the candidate will present their previous research and research objectives during his/her training in the Bianchi Lab. He/She will also meet the Bianchi Lab members and the different core facilities and labs at the Medical Genetics Branch of the NIH.

Project Description: Down syndrome (DS) is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability, affecting 1:700 newborns. In prior work, we used an integrated and lifespan approach based on gene expression data from multiple human cell types/tissues and fetal brain from three different mouse models of DS (Dp16, Ts65Dn and Ts1Cje) to identify consistently dysregulated signaling pathways and cellular processes. These included cell cycle defects, inflammation, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, among others. We also used the Connectivity Map (CMap) database ( to identify FDA-approved molecules that are predicted to counteract these pathway abnormalities and can be tested in vitro and in vivo (mouse models of DS) (Guedj et al, 2016 PMID 27586445). We identified 17 molecules predicted to rescue transcriptome changes in both humans and mice with DS. We are currently testing the safety and efficacy of these drug candidates in the Dp16, T65Dn and Ts1Cje mouse models.

  • This project will provide preclinical safety and efficacy data regarding treatment in the three best-known mouse models of DS, and if successful, will eventually allow us to start a human clinical trial to determine if prenatal treatment of DS has beneficial effects on cognition. This project has two main aims:
  • Aim I: Identify reliable molecular, cellular and behavioral endpoints in the Dp16, Ts65Dn and Ts1Cje models that have human clinical correlation across the lifespan and that can be used to analyze the effects of treatment.
  • Part II: Investigate the short and long-term effects of prenatal versus postnatal treatment with objectively selected small molecules that can rescue phenotypic deficits in DS.

Working Environment: The National Institutes of Health is the leading research institution in the country and the World. It is made up of 27 different Institutes and Centers. The Bianchi Lab is part of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) that conducts genetic and genomic research to understand the structure and function of the human genome and its role in health and disease. The Bianchi Lab is located in the Porter Neuroscience building, the home of a lot of extremely talented and World known neuroscientists. Working at the NIH opens a lot of opportunities for researchers and trainees to collaborate with experts in every field of research and use the tremendous core facilities resources that are available around the campus. In addition to the research environment, the NIH focuses its mission on training the next generation of scientist by organizing many seminars, training courses and international conferences that offer the possibility for young researchers to create a professional network and acquire a new expertise that will be profitable for their future career.  

Employer Name: Dr. Bianchi Lab – Prenatal Genomics and Therapy Section (PGT) - Medical Genetics Branch (MGB) – Intramural Research Program, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)

Position Location: Porter Neuroscience Building 35A

Position Duration: A minimum of two and a half years to three years are required to complete the project and finalize at least one manuscript.

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