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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Understanding how ageing can damage your heart

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Sharma
    Prof GYH Lip
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


Heart disease is the leading cause of global morbidity and mortality with numbers continually increasing as the global population ages. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the world effecting between 1-2% of the general global population and its prevalence roughly doubles with each advancing decade of age, from 0.5% at age 50–59 years to 10-15% at age 80–89 years. The presence of AF is associated with serious complications including heart failure, dementia and stroke. Recent findings suggest that inflammatory signalling contributes to the development of age-related cardiovascular diseases including AF and that genes implicated in cellular senescence are regulated by inflammation further aging the heart.


In this project we aim to understand the contribution inflammation in AF by comparison of atrial tissue from patients with AF and those undergoing mitral valve surgeries as a ‘control group’ without AF. Parallel changes in ‘healthy’ aged mice and AF mice will also be characterised. Further it is predicated that approximately 30% of patients in the ‘control group’ will develop post-operative incident AF following surgery. Differences between patients that do develop post-operative AF, and those that do not, will be studied.


The research outlined will be carried out at the University of Liverpool (UoL) in the Liverpool Centre for Cardiovascular Science, linking with the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital (LHCH, where the secondary supervisor is a Cardiologist), which houses state-of-the art equipment and laboratories. This is a multi-disciplinary project in which you will be trained how to carry out global proteomics, genomic and trained how to statistically analyse data generated using state of the art software. Anatomical and functional effects in aging and AF mice will be monitored using MRI and ultrasound imaging. Identified differentially expressed proteins will be analysed using siRNA technology in established 3D cell based models (primary supervisor) to assess their functional changes by electrophysiology and morphological changes by immunofluorescence. Potentially identified biomarkers will ascertain if an early detection panel of AF can be determined.

Your research will give mechanistic and translational insights into cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology, and ascertain how this common global disease manifests and progresses in patients. This could provide greater diagnostic and prognostic potentials in an effort to improve care of patients with AF.

For more information:

Primary Supervisor: Parveen Sharma medicine/staff/parveen-sharma/

Secondary Supervisor: Gregory Lip sciences/staff/gregory-lip/

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:

This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.

We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.

Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:

Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs.
- Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
- Tuition fees
- Research training and support grant (RTSG)
- Travel allowance

Studentships commence: 1st October 2020.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here:

Good luck!

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