PhD student “Molecular mechanisms underlying non-alcoholic fatty liver disease”



Working Enviroment

The Section of Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition of the Department of Pediatrics studies the molecular underpinnings of health and disease with a focus on inborn and acquired metabolic diseases. The ability to regulate energy metabolism is essential for life. Nutrient sensors play a pivotal role in regulating energy metabolism: metabolic disturbances initiate chronic diseases and contribute to their complications. Development of these systems in early life is affected by nutrition and linked to the risk of metabolic disease later in life. We strive to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying deregulated metabolism in order to develop new strategies to prevent or treat metabolic diseases. This knowledge will be applied to improve diagnostics and/or effective prevention and treatment. We are eager to educate and train the next generation of academic professionals.

For more information about the laboratory of Pediatrics please see

Job description

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease worldwide and one of the most serious pathologies associated with obesity, yet there is still no approved pharmacologic treatment option. Several fibroblast growth factor family members, including FGF1, FGF19, and FGF21, have been shown to regulate hepatic lipid metabolism by targeting their cognate receptor systems consisting of FGF receptors and the co-receptor beta-klotho. Alterations in FGF signaling may therefore contribute to the development of NAFLD. Although various clinical trials are currently investigating the safety and efficacy of FGF-mimetics in the treatment of NAFLD, the underlying mechanisms through which modulation of FGFR activity controls hepatic lipid metabolism remain largely elusive. This project aims to define the molecular mechanism by which activation or inhibition of FGFR signaling pathways affects hepatic lipid metabolism and how this can contribute to the development or treatment of NAFLD.

The following key objectives will be addressed:
- Studying how pharmacological and genetic modulation of FGFR activity affect hepatic lipid metabolism.
- Determining factors that control the transcriptional regulation of FGFR pathway components and how this impacts the FGF-based treatment of NAFLD.
- Mapping of the FGFR signaling machinery in tissue biopsies of NAFLD patients.

Within the group of Hans Jonker, we seek a PhD student to investigate the role of fibroblast growth factor signaling in the development and treatment of NAFLD. We offer a challenging project in a well-organized, international, and high-profile research group within the University Medical Center Groningen.


- MSc degree in (medical) biology or related discipline;
- Background in molecular & cell biology;
- Interest in physiology and clinically-oriented research;
- Strong motivation to succeed in scientific research;
- Independent and well-structured working style;
- Accurate and flexible;
- Well-developed social skills directed to work in a team.

Conditions of employment

A temporary contract for 3 years (36 hours a week).
Your salary will be a minimum of € 2.495,- gross per month in the first year and a maximum of € 3.050,- (scale PhD) in the final (3rd) year, based on a full-time appointment. In addition, the UMCG will offer you 8% holiday pay, and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
The conditions of employment comply with the Collective Labour Agreement for Medical Centres (CAO-UMC).

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy you may contact:

Prof. dr. Johan W. Jonker telefoonnummer +31 50 361 1261

Applying for a job

Please use the the digital application form at the bottom of this page - only these will be processed. You can apply until 16 January 2022. Within half an hour after sending the digital application form you will receive an email- confirmation with further information.

Digital application form