Postgraduate research opportunities

Regulation of cellular coupling in the healthy and diseased heart

Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Cell Biology

Number of places



14 February 2020


31 March 2021


36 Months


B.Sc. in a Biological Science at Upper Second Class or above

Project Details

The heart is composed of a number of cell types including cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts, endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells. Despite the key role played by cardiomyocytes in contraction, fibroblasts outnumber these cells, and play a crucial part in maintaining healthy cardiac function. In the diseased heart, significant remodelling occurs in response to a variety of stressors and cardiac fibroblasts become activated, resulting in differentiation to myofibroblasts. These myofibroblasts can influence both structural and contractile parameters leading to global cardiac dysregulation. One of the routes by which both fibroblasts and myofibroblasts may communicate with other cell types is via release of high levels of exocytic vesicles. These vesicles are known to secrete many factors, including proinflammatory and pro-fibrotic signals and, as such, may be crucial to the structural and contractile dysregulation that occurs during disease.

Using a combination of ex vivo and in vitro approaches, this project will examine how fibroblasts and myofibroblasts communicate and interact with cardiomyocytes. The project will consider how one cell type can influence the other, either via direct interaction or through modulation via factors that are secreted from the cells. Our work will focus on the trans-cellular delivery of signalling systems and, importantly, will examine the impact of disease on inter-cellular communication. The project will use a cell-based model to mimic the cellular changes that occur in the diseased heart and will examine a combination of primary adult cardiac cells and induced pluripotent stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes in co-culture systems. The overall aim will be to identify key factors that are crucial in modulating cell-cell communication in health and disease.


Techniques used:

Cell Culture

Langendorff Perfusion

Protein analysis


Genome Editing/siRNA approaches

Funding Details

Applicant will need to self-fund, find sponsorship for tuition and bench fees for £12,000 per annum duration of studies


Primary Supervisor: Susan Currie



Secondary Supervisor: Gwyn W. Gould


Contact us

Primary Supervisor: Susan Currie


How to apply

Applicants can apply using the University PEGASUS Application System  


This project is also suitable for PhD Plus  

This project is also suitable for Joint PhD