Building original biophysical tools to evaluate the combined effects of pollutants and viruses on model lung tissues

Applications are invited for a PhD position in experimental biophysics starting in October-November 2023, in the SoftMatter team-Laboratoire Charles Coulomb, University of Montpellier. The COCKTAIL project aims to develop an advanced "airway on a chip" model, called iOC, based on microfluidics technology, which will allow for the precise and quantitative application of various pollutants, either alone or in combination with viral infections. Using microfluidics and high-speed imaging, the candidate will investigate the physics of cilia beating and mucus flow on a mini-lung chamber, taking part to a larger project, with virologists and experts of airway organoids.
Context: Exposure to air pollutants is known to have a profound impact on human health as well as viruses, as illustrated by the recent pandemic. The mucus and the cilia beating in our lung tissue ensures, for healthy subjects, a continuous cleaning called the mucociliary function. When pollutants and viruses both reach this barrier, some cocktail effects can occur and favor infection.

Scientific project: A microfluidic chamber similar to the one published in (Nikolaev et al., 2020) will be developed, based on our expertise in microfluidics (Loiseau 2015, Layachi 2022) and will serve as a testing platform. The iOC model will be based on an existing human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)-derived bronchial epithelium at air/liquid interface model (iALI), which will be upscaled and improved for studying exposome factors. Biophysical parameters to quantify the mucociliary function alteration will be inferred from high-speed imaging, image and data analysis: the density and beating frequency of active cilia, mucus rheology, mucus flow and beating degree of coordination using correlation functions (Jory et al., 2019, Jory PhD 2019, Jory et al., 2022). The project is part of a Nexus project implying 2 other PhD students in the respective team of John De Vos and Delphine Muriaux, whose expertise will be in virology and in organoids biology and with who the recruited physicist candidate will closely interact, both for the airway on a chip development and optimization, as well as for the design of the aerosols and the imaging acquisition and analysis.

Jory, M. et al. Massiera, G. (2019). Mucus Microrheology Measured on Human Bronchial Epithelium Culture. Frontiers in Physics 7, 1-19.
Jory, M. et al. Massiera, G. (2022). Mucus from human bronchial epithelial cultures: rheology and adhesion across length scales. Interface Focus 12, 20220028
Jory, PhD (2019) Layachi, M. et al. (2022). Rheology of vesicle prototissues: A microfluidic approach. Frontiers in Physics 10
Loiseau, E. et al. (2015). Microfluidic study of enhanced deposition of sickle cells at acute corners. Biophys J 108, 2623-2632.
Nikolaev, M. et al. (2020). Homeostatic mini-intestines through scaffold-guided organoid morphogenesis. Nature 585, 574-578.

About the environment: You will work with Gladys Massiera and in close collaboration with Christophe Blanc, both physicists and also with experts in the field of pluripotent stem cells for lung tissues and organoids, from the John De Vos team and virologists from Delphine Muriaux team. At the Laboratoire Charles Coulomb (L2C), you will be part of an international team of SoftMatter physicists. You will certainly enjoy living in Montpellier, a student-friendly dynamic city in the South of France.
Eligibility: We are seeking for a motivated candidate with a suitable background in the field of Physics, Biophysics and/or Soft condensed matter physics. Candidates must hold a Master degree in Physics, Biophysics or Chemical Engineering. Previous experience in microfluidics and image/data analysis and fluency in English will be valuable.


I am available for any questions on the project/conditions. To apply, send your Curriculum Vitae with a list of Publications, and contact information of two references, to before the 15th May 2023.