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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Associate Professor David Greening and Dr Alin Rai

Project summary

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Many cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure and myocardial infarction, are associated with loss of functional cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells). As results, people with cardiovascular disease have limited restricted physical activity, higher risk of stroke, decreased muscle fitness, which may impact choices in sport, employment, insurability and travel or driving. Since the heart has a limited regenerative capacity, it is not able to replace these cardiomyocytes on its own.

At the forefront of research, attempts to regenerate heart cells by injecting stem cells that can potentially repair a damaged tissue has gained significant traction. However, recent findings suggests that factors secreted by stem cells are themselves capable of regenerating damaged heart tissues, circumventing the need and ramifications of cell based therapies. A major player in this is a class of extracellular vesicles called exosomes. Exosomes are nano-sized lipid-encapsulated vesicles that contain RNA and proteins which can mediate intercellular signalling to directly alter the function of target cells.

We aim to explore novel approaches to regenerate the damaged heart (for example following myocardial ischemia) using exosomes derived from stem cells and potential design of exosome-based nanoparticles of therapeutic interest. A focus on state-of-the-art high-resolution mass spectrometry to understand fundamental cardiac developmental — and repair processes will promote the recapitulation of cardiac repair. Such therapies will directly improve life qualities by repairing the “broken heart”.

This project is suitable for a PhD student.

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