Cardiovascular disease results from a complex remodelling of the blood vessel wall. Two key aspects of this process are initial endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction and subsequent phenotypic change and accumulation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs), with inherent disruption in local cell-cell communication. EC damage and SMC proliferation also underlie restenosis, which remains the Achilles heel of stent treatments. Novel systems that mimic cardiovascular remodelling are required both to tease apart the complex signalling mechanisms involved and for drug screening models.
Building upon previous expertise, this project will employ a combination of microfabrication and surface functionalisation techniques to create an electroanalytical microdevice with spatially controlled vascular cell populations. It will enable simultaneous electrical-optical cell monitoring and will be used to characterise communication between cell populations, with modes of cellular communication teased apart by systematically controlling cell-cell interactions. This will provide novel mechanistic insights into cardiovascular disease and a well-characterised in vitro model of vascular cell-cell communication suitable for upscaling into an array format for multiplexed, label-free drug screening.
The student will be joining a vibrant research group with strong clinical and industry links. The project will provide the opportunity to develop expertise in a wide range of both engineering and cell biology techniques, including microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip techniques, electrochemical sensors, vascular cell isolation and culture, and live-cell imaging.