Water and ion dynamics in the brain: Cellular level computational model
Inter-cellular signaling between the cerebral cells demands an intensive electrical activity and consequently dynamic regulation of ion concentrations in the brain. At the cellular level, ion channels and pumps participate in the regulatory mechanisms by facilitating the membrane transport between intra- and extracellular spaces (ECS). Thus, both expression level and localization of these channels/ transporters are determinative factors in the brain ion homeostasis. Astrocytes as the most prominent glial cells in the CNS plays an important role in brain homeostasis by connecting the neuronal synapses to the perivascular space surrounding blood vessels, and showing high expression of ion channels in the synaptic and perivascular sites.
High expression of AQP4 water channels in the astrocyte membrane and co-localization of these channels with potassium ion channels lead people to hypothesize about the functional coupling of ion and water channels; however, the quality of this inter-relationship is not clear yet. The current limitations of the imaging facilities do not allow high resolution tracking of water and ion single molecules and complicate answering the relevant questions about their dynamics in the brain using the experimental approaches. Thus, developing a cellular level computational model of astrocytes based on the brief introduced biological facts helps us investigate several hypotheses pictured for the ion/ water dynamics in the brain. This model represents a network of astrocytes with their connections to neuronal synapses and perivascular spaces. The model will be based on the electro-diffusive dynamics of ions and osmotic pressure driven water flow.
The Master student interested in this project should be willing to do research in a multidisciplinary field and environment. The project requires the student to know about programming (in Matlab or any similar software or programming language). The estimated duration of the project is 6 months. For detailed information, please contact either Mahdi Asgari (PhD student), firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 44 635 5056, or Prof. Vartan Kurtcuoglu, email@example.com, +41 44 635 5055.