The hyperactive carotid body in cardiovascular diseases: why so sensitive?

   School of Medical Sciences

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  Dr J Paton, Dr Liam Argent  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The average prognosis for those living with cardio-respiratory diseases is poor, with current treatments often proving ineffective. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying these conditions is needed if we are to develop improved therapies. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common cardiovascular disease and is likely induced and maintained by elevated sympathetic nervous system activity. Recent research suggests that the carotid body, a sensory ganglia that initiates the carotid chemoreflex in response to various stimuli including hypoxia, may drive the over-activation of the sympathetic system in hypertension and other cardio-respiratory disorders. Unfortunately, the common medications used to treat hypertension do not correct this elevated sympathetic nerve activity, and many of them make it worse.


The project:

Although we now know that the carotid body is hyperactive in several cardio-respiratory disease states, we lack a detailed understanding of why this occurs. Working on this project, you will have the opportunity to use state-of-the-art techniques such as single-cell live confocal imaging, whole-cell patch clamp electrophysiology and advanced biochemistry to determine how the carotid body circuit processes information and how this changes in disease states to produce hyperactivity. Equipped with this knowledge, you will then seek to discover improved clinical interventions that target the carotid body in order to reduce sympathetic activity and blood pressure. As the project develops, you will be able to guide your own work, choosing from options such as studying human tissue, exploring new collaborations and utilising an additional specialist technique of your choice.


Who we are looking for:

We are looking for a student who shares our passion for translational physiology and tackling questions using a range of innovative approaches. The ideal candidate will be creative, hard-working, adaptable and curious, will aspire to one day drive their own research and have a willingness to learn, as well as being someone who enjoys working with others in a research team. The entry requirements for doctoral degrees can be found here: 


 About us:

We are a small but diverse team of researchers based in the Physiology department at the University of Auckland. We share an interest in answering biological questions with a multifaceted and translational approach (i.e. bench to bedside), look to tackle problems at the molecular, cellular and systems levels and recognise the importance of leveraging a range of models for hypothesis validation. Our research team is spearheaded by world-renowned translational physiologist Prof. Julian Paton, who has supervised over 20 PhD students over 30-years and will be the primary supervisor of this project. He also is co-Director of the Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand CoRE which is aimed at addressing equity for Māori and Pacific People. Please see the links below for some information about us and our current research highlights.







How to apply:

Please send us your CV and a cover letter outlining your reasons for applying and your suitability for the position.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Unfortunately, due to COVID19 we can only accept NZ citizens, NZ residents or students currently residing in NZ at this time.
We welcome applicants with prior research experience. For exceptional students with a GPA of 8.0 or above, the University of Auckland offers guaranteed doctoral scholarships. Exceptional Māori and Pacific students with a GPA of over 7.5 are also eligible for a guaranteed UoA scholarship. We welcome Māori and Pacific student interest and are receptive to Māori Kaupapa in terms of co-design and incorporating practices and values from mātauranga Māori.