Katharine Dibb
  • 3.14 Core Technology Facility, 46 Grafton Street

    M13 9NT Manchester

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Please get in touch if you are interested in projects encompassing in-vivo and cellular electrophysiology, confocal imaging, optical mapping and super resolution imaging to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms of disease.

Personal profile

Overview

  • Senior Lecturer in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion co-Director for The School of Medical Sciences
  • British Heart Foundation Project Grants Committee Member
  • Athena Swan Self Assessment Team member
  • External Examiner, University of Hull

Biography

Katharine Dibb is a senior lecturer in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester. She came to Manchester following her PhD at the University of Leeds. After completing a post-doctoral position she received a Stepping Stone Fellowship from the University of Manchester to investigate cellular and molecular substrates for arrhythmias in ageing. She was then awarded a British Heart Foundation Intermediate Research Fellowship to investigate the structure and function of the atria of the heart in ageing and atrial fibrillation.

Research interests

Structure and Function of the Atria of the Heart

My research focus is the atria of the heart and how it functions in both health and disease.  Far less is known about the atria compared to the well-studied ventricle despite the prevalence of atrial disease. In the ventricle structures called transverse (t)-tubules are important for controlling the rise in intracellular calcium which makes cells contract. T-tubules were thought to be absent from the atria but we identified an extensive atrial t-tubule network and highlighted their functional importance. We are continuing work to help us understand how t-tubules and other cellular proteins control the rise in intracellular calcium in the atria.

Atrial Transverse tubules in Heart Failure and Development

We have shown that atrial t-tubules are almost completely lost at the point of heart failure. The loss of t-tubules plays a role in the decreased rise of intracellular calcium in the atria associated with this disease and alters the spatial properties of calcium release.  We are currently investigating how the change in atrial cellular structure affects the electrical characteristics of the atria and if these changes predispose to the development of arrhythmias. Interestingly t-tubules can be restored to heart cells although they are highly disordered. Our ongoing work tests if recovered t-tubules are able to work properly to fully restore function to the atria.

In order to restore t-tubules therapeutically it is necessary to understand the process by which they are ‘built’. Current projects aim to elucidate pathways and proteins responsible for atrial t-tubule loss in heart failure and restoration following recovery from heart failure. In addition we have mapped the process of normal atrial t-tubule development and again current work is focused on understanding the pathways responsible for normal t-tubule growth.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF), Alternans and the Aged Heart

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is most prevalent in the elderly. We have demonstrated some fascinating changes occurring in cellular calcium homeostatic mechanisms in the aged atria and ventricle of the heart. While a number of these changes would be expected to render the aged heart more susceptible to arrhythmias and heart failure others may be protective. Understanding these mechanisms is likely to be of critical importance for our understanding of how and why dysfunction may arise in the aged heart as well as the development of therapeutic strategies to modulate function. Current work is focused on understanding how AF could be triggered at the cellular and in-vivo level and understanding the changes in electrical function and calcium handling in both the young and elderly atria. Our recent work suggests alternans (a beat to beat variation in the atrial action potential) may play an important role in atrial dysfunction in the elderly. Ongoing work is focused on understanding how alternans may arise in this setting.

Qualifications

PhD

Methodological knowledge

Cardiac cellular electrophysiology - use of the patch clamp technique on single cardiac myocytes to investigate changes in membrane currents or action potentials.

Intracellular ion measurements - the use of fluorescence to measure changes in calcium or sodium inside the cardiac myocyte.

Western Blot  - used to investigate protein expression of ion channels in cardiac tissue.

Confocal Microscopy - used to view cellular structure and the associated rise in intracellular calcium

Super resolution microscopy - state of the art microscopy to understand the ultrastructure of cardiac t-tubules and associated proteins

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

External positions

Editorial Board, Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology

Editorial Board, Physiological Reports

British Heart Foundation Project Grants Committee Member, British Heart Foundation (BHF)

External examiner, The University of Hull

Areas of expertise

  • R Medicine (General)
  • Heart
  • Atria
  • Physiology
  • transverse tubule
  • calcium
  • ion channels
  • heart failure
  • atrial fibrillation
  • ageing
  • frailty
  • dysferlin
  • microtubules

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Healthier Futures
  • Lydia Becker Institute
  • Manchester Precision Medicine Institute
  • Digital Futures
  • Henry Royce Institute

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