• Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health,
    Division of Cardiovascular Sciences
    3.09 Core Technology Facility
    46 Grafton St
    Manchester
    M13 9NT
    UK

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Personal profile

Research interests

Developmental Programming of Cardiac Health and Disease

An unborn baby requires a constant supply of oxygen to survive. Complications during pregnancy, such as maternal smoking or placental infection, can limit the amount of oxygen the baby receives. This condition, known as prenatal hypoxia, can seriously harm fetal heart development and increase the likelihood that the child will develop heart disease later in life.  Understanding the cellular mechanisms that underpin this phenomenon is fundamental to developing preventative strategies for heart disease.  Therefore, the overall aim of my research is to investigate the long term effects of prenatal hypoxia on heart cell function.  In the long term, we hope to develop maternal therapeutic treatments that will protect the unborn heart from oxygen deprivation and heart disease.

Our laboratory is particularly interested in the effects of prenatal hypoxia on heart cell structure, calcium regulation and metabolism.  We use of range of techniques to study these properties, including; echocardiography, electrophysiology, confocal and epifluorescent microscopy, high resolution microrespirometry (Oroboros), electron microscopy, spectrophotometric biochemical assays and epigenetic molecular analysis.  These techniques allow us to take an integrative approach to study the effects of prenatal hypoxia at numerous levels of biological organisation from the whole animal down to the isolated cell, organelle and gene.    

In addition to studying cellular function in hypoxia-sensitive mammals, I utilise a comparative approach by considering species which have naturally evolved hypoxia tolerance.  For many embryonic organisms, the availability of oxygen is a common environmental challenge.  Hypoxia can occur in a wide range of aquatic (intertidal, estuarine, swamps and floodplains) and terrestrial (sealed burrows) habitats.  Remarkably, some organisms, such as freshwater turtles, have successfully exploited hypoxic environments and can survive in the complete absence of oxygen for hours, days and even months.  The fact that the hearts of these species continue to function without oxygen has far reaching, clinical implications.  Furthermore, recent work from my laboratory has shown embryonic exposure to hypoxia in turtles produces stress-tolerant phenotypes. Therefore, a major aim of my research programme is to study the cellular mechanisms that lead to adaptive cardiac programming which may provide novel drug targets for the treatment of prenatal hypoxia in mammalian models of disease.  

Methodological knowledge

  • Electrophysiology
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Epi-fluorescent microscopy
  • In vivo surgical techniques
  • Isolated heart preparations
  • Microrespirometery (mitochondrial physiology)
  • Biochemical analysis

Biography

Aug 2013  - Present               

Senior Lecturer: Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Universty of Manchester

Feb 2011 – Aug 2013            

Post-doctoral Researcher: Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, UK (supervisors, Dr Holly Shiels and Prof. David Eisner)  

July 2008 - Jan 2011              

Post-doctoral Fellow: Department of Zoology, The University of British Columbia, Canada. (Supervisors: Prof A Farrell and Dr J Richards)

Feb 2007 - July 2008            

Post-doctoral Researcher: Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station, California, USA.  (Supervisor:  Prof Barbera Block)

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
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Science, Comparative Physiology

Award Date: 7 Dec 2006

Bachelor of Science, Bsc. Hons. Biological Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham

Award Date: 29 Jul 2001

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures

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