This studentship will align with the strategic priorities of the Leicester British Heart Foundation Accelerator Award
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK and many other countries. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and a sedentary life-style increase the risk of developing CVD. Furthermore, the risk of having CVD is, to a large extent, related to a person’s genetic makeup. Recent research has discovered a number of DNA variants that are associated with CVD susceptibility, such that people who have inherited such DNA variants are more likely to develop CVD than people who do not carry such variants.
It is still unclear how these DNA variants promote CVD development, but there is emerging evidence indicating that some of these variants may modulate gene expression in a type of cells of the blood vessel wall, known as vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), and thereby affect the behaviour of VSMCs in terms of their movement, growth rate, lifespan, etc.
This project will investigate which DNA variants can affect gene expression and VSMC behaviour, by what molecular mechanisms these DNA variants modulate gene expression, which particular genes are regulated by these DNA variants, and what effects these genes exert on VSMC behaviour.
The project will have two related components: 1) bioinformatic and statistical analyses of genetic, transcriptomic and phenotyping data that have been generated from a large collection of VSMCs from different people (n=2000); and 2) a range of laboratory experiments including chromatin accessibility assays to investigate gene regulatory mechanisms and the use of gene knockdown techniques to determine of the effect of target genes on VSMC behaviour.
It is expected that the study will advance our understanding of genetic influences on CVD and help identify biological targets for development of new treatments.
The student will receive research training in cardiovascular genomics and a range of skills including omics data analysis, bioinformatics, cell culture, chromatin immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, cell transfection, cell behaviour (proliferation, migration, apoptosis) assays, etc.
UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.
How to apply
Please refer to the ‘How to Apply’ section here: Please refer to the ‘How to Apply’ section here - https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/cls-cardio-sciences-ye-2020