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  Dr R Akhtar, Dr Alena Shantsila  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project


Vascular ageing results in deteriorated vascular structure and function and represents an integrated marker of overall cardiovascular risk burden over time. Although age-dependent arterial damage typically presents in individuals >50, it has been found that there is wide variability between individuals with some displaying early vascular ageing (EVA). EVA is accelerated by hypertension, smoking and diabetes, and ultimately results in cardiovascular events. Life-time exposure to risk factors promotes the development and accumulation of subclinical vascular changes that result in EVA. This has led to the hypothesis that vascular age, as opposed to chronological age, may be better related to cardiovascular outcomes. This has been further highlighted with the global COVID-19 pandemic, where the role of cardiovascular health in disease severity has been highlighted. There is an urgent need to understand the long-term vascular consequences of COVID-19.

This project aims to determine whether accelerated vascular ageing is associated with COVID-19.


·        To determine whether vascular ageing is further accelerated as a function of COVID-19 severity and of pre-existing cardiometabolic disease.

·        To evaluate the presence of EVA with carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) after diagnosis of COVID-19 infection.

·        To investigate whether cardiovascular morbidity and mortality are increased in COVID-19 survivors and whether they are associated with accelerated vascular ageing

Experimental Approach

The main measurements that will be conducted for EVA evaluation will be Carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (cfPWV), and non-invasive aortic blood pressure (aoBP) using a Mobil-o-graph (I.E.M. GmbH). The measurements will be conducted at the Liverpool Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences (LCCS) research labs at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. cfPWV will be coupled with another EVA biomarker, 24-hour central blood pressure and pulse wave analysis (cABPM). All measurements will be performed according to a standard protocol established by the International CARTESIAN collective [1] and using gold-standard techniques. The study will recruit patients following recovery from COVID-19 at different levels of severity. Patient clinical factors will be compared with mechanical vascular ageing.


The molecular basis and mechanobiology of EVA has started to become acknowledged in the cardiovascular scientific literature. However, the relationship between EVA and risk of severe disease is poorly understood. This has been highlighted with the COVID-19 prevalence worldwide. This highly novel study provides an opportunity to address this and integrate COVID-19 disease prevalence with cardiovascular health.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to address health inequalities and understand risk and prognosis of disease. Given the huge burden in the UK and globally in terms of death toll and on the local economy, better understanding and treatment through consideration of cardiovascular is urgently needed. 

The successful candidate will join the LABB Group (Liverpool Aortic Biomechanics and Biochemistry Research Group), www.labb-group.com, a multidisciplinary group with expertise in aortic biomechanics, biochemistry and surgery. The LABB group has members from University of Liverpool, Royal University Liverpool Hospital and Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.

 For any enquiries please contact Dr Riaz Akhtar on: [Email Address Removed]

To apply for this opportunity, please visit: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-to-apply/ and click on the 'Ready to apply? Apply online' button, to start your application.

Funding Notes

This project is for self-funded students only, for example, through government-awarded scholarships. Tuition fees can be found on the following page: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/fees-and-costs/
Bench fees will be £2500 per annum.


[1] Bruno et al., Covid-19 Effects on ARTErial StIffness and Vascular AgeiNg: CARTESIAN Study Rationale and Protocol, Artery Research, 20, 59-68, 2020, https://doi.org/10.2991/artres.k.201124.001
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