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Improving recovery after a heart attack using non-coding RNA

Project Description

This project is one of 9 four-year PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland ( to be delivered jointly by the named University and Company. The Studentship will provide the first-class academic and commercial training needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"Can exsome-derived miRNA be harvested to activate endogenous expansion of the endothelium post myocardial infarction" to be delivered by the University of Edinburgh [Supervisors: Professor Andy Baker and Dr Mairi Brittan (both Centre of Cardiovascular Science)] and Mirabillis Therapeutics BV ( [Company supervisor: Professor Leon De Windt].

Narrowing of the coronary arteries can lead to a heart attack. This event leads to the massive loss of cells in the affected region of the heart. Patients who survive a heart attack cannot regenerate this region of the heart and the tissue scars and does not function correctly; ultimately leading to heart failure. To prevent this extensive scarring of the heart, we are working towards improving blood flow to the affected region and in parallel to reduce the build-up of damaging tissue fluid and immune cells. Collectively this will help prevent loss of functional heart tissue and establish conditions within the injured heart to facilitate better fucntion of the heart. Our strategy is to use exosomes and RNA molecules to improve function of the small blood vessels via the activation of existing heart tissue thus generating new vessels from within. If successful, our work will provide substantial new scientific knowledge as to how to improve blood flow after a heart attack and might provide a new option for patient care. This will be acheived through the following aims:

Aim 1. To use an established human embryonic stem cell-to-endothelial differentiation system to identify miRNA cargo present in "angiogenic exosomes".
Aim 2. To assess whole exosomes and the candidate miRNA from the above model system and establish their effect on endothelial cell function in vitro.
Aim 3. To utilise mouse models to ascertain the effect of miRNA on expansion of the endothelial compartment in the heart post myocardial infarction.

These strategies align with both the academic laboratory at the University of Edinburgh and with the commercial laboratory and strategy of Mirabilis BV.


Enquiries should be addressed to Professor Andy Baker and sent be emailed to Marian Kavanagh:

Candidates must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline.

Applicants should send a CV, the contact details of 2 references (including email addresses) and a covering letter, explaining why the applicant wishes to carry out this project, by email to Marian Kavanagh:

Please note, your application may be shared with the funders of this PhD Studentship, Medical Research Scotland and Mirabillis Therapeutics BV.

Interviews are expected to take place approximately 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications.

It is anticipated that the PhD Studentship will start in September 2019.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides:

An annual tax-free stipend of £17,500, increasing to £18,000 over the four years; tuition fees at UK/EU rates only; consumables; and contribution to travel expenses. International fees are not covered.


Professor Andy Baker:

Dr Mairi Brittan:

How good is research at University of Edinburgh in Clinical Medicine?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 206.93

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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