The widespread occurrence of outcrossing sexual reproduction has puzzled evolutionary biologists since Darwin, as unisexual reproduction (either through self-fertilisation or parthenogenesis) poses an immediate advantage to organisms. Mixed reproductive strategies allow a unique direct comparison of the relative advantages of different modes of reproduction. The Eurasian tadpole shrimp Triops cancriformis is a 'living fossil' with a mixed reproductive system. Some populations seem to be bisexual, with males and females in similar proportions, but others consist mostly or totally of females. In some of the latter populations, females can reproduce in isolation and the examination of their gonads indicates that these females were in fact self-fertilising hermaphrodites. Most available evidence indicates that the reproductive system of T. cancriformis involves both androdioecy (a mixed reproductive system in which self-fertilising hermaphrodites and males co-occur in a population), and the putative ancestral condition, sexual reproduction with separate males and females. Androdioecy is a very rare reproductive system in plants and animals. The case of T. cancriformis is unique in which a clear geographical patterning of the reproductive mode is found, and the putative ancestral state (separate males and females) exists. Furthermore, the species provides several experimental advantages to the other known models: its habitats are discrete and accessible and demographic and ecological parameters can easily be investigated, their eggs are resistant and dormant, therefore population samples can be obtained at any time of the year and directly compared in the laboratory. In this project we will apply molecular genetic techniques and experimental approaches to better characterise the reproductive system of T. cancriformis and to investigate the evolution of its mixed reproductive strategy in a geographic context. We will use two approaches: (a) Mitochondrial DNA phylogeography: based on an extensive sample collection across the distribution range we will use a cost-effective approach to screen mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in order to reconstruct the responses of this species' geographic range to the Pleistocene Ice Ages. (b) Characterization of reproductive mode through microsatellite screening of natural populations and the offspring of laboratory reared females; In a subset of populations representing different genetic lineages and a range of sex ratios we will characterize the reproductive mode through population genetic analysis and breeding studies combined with paternity analysis using polymorphic genetic markers. We will integrate both approaches to describe the evolution of reproductive mode in this powerful research system. The results of this project will be crucial for the design of experiments to better understand the conditions for the evolution and maintenance of androdioecy and, more generally, for the evolution of separate sexes versus hermaphroditism, without confounding phylogenetic or phylogeographic factors.
To embed knowledge on integrated biodiversity, carbon and socio-economic monitoring and analysis into the company in the form of a monitoring model which will permit rapid expansion to novel field sites and the establishment of a consultancy service.
The aim of the project is to design and optimise a novel microfluidic device in which small biopsies of human tumour tissue can be kept alive, treated with drugs and the effects tested downstream by appropriate analysis techniques. This human system will be able to replace the generalised testing of new drugs and combinations of drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, on animal models that only poorly replicate the physiology and metabolism of human beings. In addition it will be possible to test biopsies of both normal and diseased pieces of any tissue type so that both specific therapeutic responses, as well as non-specific side-effects can easily be assessed. There is growing evidence that patients with many cancers, particularly ovarian and pancreas suffer with an increased occurrence of blood clotting events; these clots can be lethal. There is also evidence that when patients undergo chemotherapy and the tumour cells are destroyed the release of cell debris further increases the risk of clotting. In the project we propose to design a device that allows analysis of these clotting pathways, using a human ovarian tumour model. Three analysis modules will be integrated into a device on which a sample of tissue is incubated, allowing different types of biological response to be monitored, including changes in the expressed genes, cell surface components and secreted products. These distinct types of analysis module demonstrate the widespread applicability and potential of this new platform technology. Furthermore, ovarian cancer has a relatively high mortality with survival rates not improving substantially over the past two decades. Not only will the new technology replace a large number of conventional animal tests, of limited proven value, but the capability of undertaking multiple tests on a tumour sample, that is an extremely close representation of the mass from which it came, after the tissue has been subjected to a drug or other test condition, means that a large amount of information can be generated on any individual tumour. Such data will be extremely useful for the clinician when obtained at the time of diagnosis. The intended treatment strategy can be tailored to the patient, and where no treatment appears to give any therapeutic effect, this can be discussed with the patient opening the opportunity for palliative care to be the preferred choice, whilst maintaining the best quality of life.
Doctoral Training Partnerships: a range of postgraduate training is funded by the Research Councils. For information on current funding routes, see the common terminology at www.rcuk.ac.uk/StudentshipTerminology. Training grants may be to one organisation or to a consortia of research organisations. This portal will show the lead organisation only.