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Postgraduate Admissions


Project Title: The gut-brain axis in the regulation of energy balance

Supervisor: Dr Alice Adriaenssens

About the Project

Mechanistically, it is increasingly evident that obesity is driven by alterations in signalling pathways of the central nervous system (CNS), identifying these pathways as promising targets for treating metabolic disease. Physiologically, the gut-brain axis provides a critical link between the nutritional status of an organism and CNS-governed control of energy balance, with endocrine hormones released from the gut engaging neural networks underlying feeding behavior. Recently, we identified the gut hormone, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), as a novel player in the gut-brain axis, uncovering GIP receptor (GIPR)-expressing neuron populations in key feeding centers of the brain. As GIP-based pharmacology is delivering unprecedented improvement in metabolic health and weight loss in clinical trials, it is now critical to understand the role of central GIPR axis activation. The aim of this project is to provide mechanistic insight into how GIPR neurons integrate into central pathways regulating energy balance.

To address these fundamental questions, the PhD candidate will employ state-of-the-art neural connectivity mapping and circuit tracing techniques combined with advanced microscopy. Extensive transcriptomic datasets will inform ex vivo live cell recordings and imaging analysis, as wells as complex feeding behavior assays in vivo.

Key References:

(1) GIPR Function in the Central Nervous System: Implications and Novel Perspectives for GIP-Based Therapies in Treating Metabolic Disorders. Samms RJ, (...), Adriaenssens AE. Diabetes. 2021 Sep;70(9):1938-1944. (2) The glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) regulates body weight and food intake via CNS-GIPR signaling. Zhang Q, (...), Müller TD. Cell Metab. 2021 Apr 6;33(4):833-844.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2021.01.015. (3) Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide receptor-expressing cells in the hypothalamus regulate food intake. Adriaenssens AE, (...), Reimann F. Cell Metab. 2019 Nov 5; 30(5): 987-996.

Candidate: Applicants should have, or shortly expect to obtain, a minimum of a UK II.i Honours Degree (or equivalent) in a Biological subject. We are looking for highly motivated, enthusiastic and industrious individuals who are capable of thinking and working independently. The studentships are available to students who meet the UK residency requirements. Further information about your fee status can be found at the following website:

Please email a CV and covering letter (max two A4 pages) highlighting (a) your research interests, (b) what you hope to achieve from the programme, (c) your career aspirations beyond the programme, and (d) why you wish to undertake this PhD, before the deadline, to

The successful applicant will be required to complete a formal application to the University of Cambridge at Please search in the Course Directory for "Clinical Biochemistry" PhD studentships, selecting a start date of 1st October 2022. A £75 application fee applies.

Funding: A stipend will be provided for up to 4 years with effect from 1 October 2022. This funding also covers the University Composition Fee and Maintenance, and an allowance for consumables.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 4 years in the first instance.

Informal queries may be directed to Dr Alice Adriaenssens on

Please quote reference RG29743 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Key Information

Department of Clinical Biochemistry

Reference: RG29743

Dates and deadlines:

Friday, 14 January, 2022
Closing Date
Saturday, 5 February, 2022