Ashraf Kitmitto

Ashraf Kitmitto, BSc, PhD

Professor

Personal profile

Overview

I am a Professor of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences

Research: My group is investigating the link between obesity and diabetes and myocardial structural remodelling, metabolic dysfunction and impaired pump function. Our goal is to identify novel therapeutic targets for treating metabolic disturbances. We employ a diverse range of techniques spanning structural biology (proteins to cells to tissue) to functional analyses measuring metabolic flux.

My research is mainly funded by the British Heart Foundation, BHF; this has included two consecutive BHF Basic Science Lectureship Awards, Programme Grant, Project grants and PhD studentships.

Teaching: I am actively involved in teaching (years 1-3) on the medical programme (MBChB), including year 3 project rotations.

I am the Programme Director for the MSc in Cardiovascular Health & Disease (Research), including delivery of lectures and supervision of projects. I also offer project rotations to other postgraduate programmes including the 4 year BHF PhD programme.

I have a track record of PhD supervision and am happy to hear from prospective students wishing to pursue research in the areas of cardiometabolism and heart failure.

I hold several Leadership roles and am a member of multiple committees associated with both UG and PG Education.

I am the Cardiovascular branch lead for the Lydia Becker Institute (Cardiovascular immunology and multi-morbidities)

Biography

Ashraf Kitmitto is a Professor of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Sciences at the University of Manchester, UK. After a BSc (Hons) in Applied Chemistry (Cardiff, UK) she went on to undertake a PhD (MRC studentship) in Biochemistry at Imperial College, London (PhD supervisor, Professor Howard Morris, FRS). She next worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 5 years gaining valuable insights into applied/translational research. Ashraf then established her own laboratory at UMIST in the Department of Biomolecular Sciences; upon the merger of UMIST with the Victoria University of Manchester to form the University of Manchester she transferred into the Cardiovascular Group in the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester. She was funded for 10 years by two consecutive Basic Science Lectureship awards from the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Her BHF funded work focussed upon investigating cardiac ion channel structure-function, specialising in electron microscopy and biophysical techniques. Funded by a BHF programme grant her group were subsequently one of the first to apply the then novel method of serial block face scanning electron microscopy to investigate cardiac cellular morphology, leading to several seminal reports revealing nanostructural remodelling in heart failure and diabetic cardiomyopathy. More recently Ashraf’s group has focussed upon understanding the effects of obesogenic stresses on cardiac structure and mechanistic links to the development of metabolic dysfunction. Through this work she aims to delineate early-stage pathological remodelling events to identify novel therapeutic targets to prevent diabesity-linked heart failure progression.

 

Research interests

STRUCTURAL AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF HEART FAILURE in OBESITY & DIABETES

More than a third of the world's population are considered overweight or obese. Obesity is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes (T2DM); more than half of all deaths in T2DM are attributed to cardiovascular complications. The rise in obesity/T2DM is also linked to the increased number of heart failure cases and in particular the phenotype, Heart Failure with Persevered Ejection fraction (HFpEF) a condition which is generally recalcitrant to current treatments. A hallmark of both obesity and diabetes is metabolic dysfunction associated with progressive pump failure. 

My group is investigating the biological, structural and molecular remodelling that leads to impaired cardiac energetics, aberrant lipid metabolism and reduced contractile function in models of obesity and diabetes. Projects are focused upon identifying pathological changes that occur in the early stages of disease to develop new strategies for preventing heart failure progression.

We are employing a multi-disciplinary approach combining state-of-the–art imaging techniques spanning 3D electron microscopy, confocal microscopy and live-cell imaging. These imaging modalities are complemented by biochemistry, proteomics, cell and molecular biology techniques ranging from single protein studies to whole cell functional analyses. 

Key research areas include themes around the development of dysfunctional cardiac metabolism, the intersection with inflammation (immunometabolics - https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/domains/infection-immunity-inflammation-repair/immunology/cardiovascular-immunology/) with a particular interest in mitochondrial remodelling. We are also investigating the effects of hyperlipidemia on myocardial structure-function.

Our recent work has identified that in the early stages of diabetes there is a shift towards cardiac fatty acid metabolism leading to energy inefficiencies, with the accumulation of damaged mitochondria. We are now exploring the underlying mechanisms with the aims to identify new therapeutic agents.

Teaching

Current:

  • Co-Founder and Programme Director MRes Cardiovascular Health & Disease (now MSc)
  • Lecturer and module co-ordinator MRes Cardiovascular Health & Disease
  • Project (MRes) supervsior 4 year BHF PhD programme
  • Phase 1 MBChB Tutor for Personal and Professional Development
  • Phase 1 MBChB Advsior
  • Year 2 MBChB PEP supervsior
  • Year 3 MBChB project supervsior

I have a 100% completion record for all the PhD and MPhil stduents that I have supervised.

I am currently  principal supervisor for two PhD stduents and I am advisor to three other PhD stduents.

I enjoy teaching and over the last five years have also been a Phase 1 MBChB PBL Tutor (Abilities and Disabilities), OSCE examiner, Portfolio Tutor and Personal Group Tutor.

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Physiological Society

British Society for Cardiovascular Research

Methodological knowledge

  • Electron microscopy - 3D reconstruction of whole cell (cardiac myocytes) - tissue imaging using serial block face scanning electron microscopy (SBF-SEM)
  • 3D electron tomography of tissue sections
  • Transmission electron microscopy single proteins to tissue sections
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Cell culture (including human iPSC-cardiomyocytes - collaboration with Professor Tao Wang)
  • Functional metabolics (e.g. mitochondrial respiration)
  • Molecular biology (transfection methods)
  • Biochemical methods e.g. western blotting, enzymatic and fluorescent activity assays, proteomics
  • Biosensor technology e.g. QCM-D, SPR for understanding protein-protein interactions
     

Qualifications

  • BSc (Hons) Chemistry (University of Wales Institute of Science & Technology, now Cardiff University)
  • PhD Biochemistry (Imperial College of Science Technology & Medicine, University of London), supervisor Professor Howard Morris FRS

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Lydia Becker Institute

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