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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Professor Geoff Head, Dr Francine Marques and Dr Pam Davern

Project summary

The focus of this project is to determine the contribution of the gut microbiota to the elevated blood pressure and sympathetic activity present in the Schlager hypertensive mouse (BPH/2J) compare to its control strain.

High blood pressure (BP), or hypertension, is a highly prevalent chronic disease, affecting 1 in 3 people in Australia and more than 87 per cent of those aged over 85 years. It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. It is well known that hypertension is a multifactorial disease with influence of both genetic and environmental risk factors. However, it is starting to emerge that the bacteria that live in our gut, called the gut microbiota, might also contribute to blood pressure regulation.

The Schlager blood pressure high (BPH) mouse is a genetic model that develops hypertension spontaneously with ageing. Our studies support that the foundation for the hypertension in this model is the exaggerated sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity in key regions such as medial amygdala and the hypothalamus in the brain, but also in the kidney. We have determined that the BPH mouse has a distinct gut microbiome compared with its control strain, the BP normal (BPN) mouse (unpublished). The aim of the present study is to establish if the gut microbiota can override the genetic predisposition to the development of hypertension and sympathetic nerve activation (SNA) in the Schlager hypertensive model, and determine the involvement of the gut-SNS-kidney axis.

The project is suitable for a PhD or Honours student and will involve applying various skills and techniques, including:

  • preclinical procedures (inc. telemetry)
  • data analysis and statistics
  • immunocytochemistry
  • PCR
  • molecular biology.

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