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The physiology of uterine smooth muscle contraction

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Wei-Hang Chua
    Prof R Lentle
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Medical Physiology Research Unit are seeking a high calibre physiology graduate to undertake a PhD on the mechanics of uterine smooth muscle contraction with a view to gaining greater understanding of the processes associated with labour. The scholarship provides a $25,000 NZD (tax free) per year stipend for three years with tuition fees waived. Suitable candidates will need to meet Massey University entry requirements for enrolling in a PhD (Info: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/research/higher-research-degrees/higher-research-degrees_home.cfm).

Background:
Our unit uses spatiotemporal analysis to study and quantify the contraction of smooth muscle in the gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder and uterus. This project builds on our latest work on uterine contraction which has provided some great insights into the mechanics of contraction in the uterus. From this work, we know that uterine contractions are ongoing, even in the non-gravid uterus and closely resemble those that maintain tone in the wall of the urinary bladder. A pattern of diffuse patchy myogenic contractions influences both vertical and horizontal dimensions to maintain wall tone and hence the capacity of the uterine cavity. These diffuse uncoordinated patterns continue until the period immediately prior to the onset of labour whereupon the component patches of contraction become larger, persist longer and cover a greater area following dosage with oxytocin. The contractions do not however become significantly coordinated in either dimension and thus we hypothesise that they are not considered to have a peristatic-like action, i.e. directly propel a contained foetus toward the cervical os. Rather the nature of the contractions is likely to increase general wall tone and decrease cavity capacity.

Our knowledge of the structure of the contractile frequency changes that accompany the onset of expulsive uterine contraction patterns may thus provide a means of identifying the likelihood that pharmacological intervention will allow expulsive patterns of contraction to develop, an important diagnostic capability for human subjects. The proposed work will further characterize patterns of uterine smooth muscle contraction using different models and techniques. This research and the models implemented may also provide a new basis for a pharmacological assay of drugs that reduce the likelihood of the onset of expulsive contractions.

The successful candidate will have an appropriate degree in physiology or pharmacology. She or he will be given training in spatiotemporal mapping analysis, the maintenance of tissues and organs in culture, tissue culture and microscopy, and be willing to work in a team environment.

Supervisors:
Dr Wei-Hang Chua (School of Health Sciences, Palmerston North)
Professor Roger Lentle (School of Health Sciences, Palmerston North)
Dr Phil Suisted (Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Midcentral District Health Board, Palmerston North)

Location:
The student will be based at Massey University’s Manawatū Campus in Palmerston North, New Zealand (https://www.manawatunz.co.nz/).

Applying:
Apply by submitting a letter of interest detailing your previous research interests and experience, include your curriculum vitae, academic transcripts, IELTS results certificate (if applicable) and the names and contact details of at least two academic references to Dr Wei-Hang Chua ([Email Address Removed]).

Interviews with potential candidates may be conducted prior to the closing date. The successful candidate must have accepted the scholarship and be enrolled as a student by 31 July 2019 and be ready to commence shortly thereafter.

Funding Notes

Stipend of $25,000 (NZD tax free) per year for three (3) years. Tuition fees are waived.

The ideal candidate will have:
• A degree in physiology, pharmacology or a field related to this area of research.
• Bachelor’s degree with suitable Honours or a Master’s degree.
• GPA of at least 7.5 (A-) out of 9.
• An IELTS score aggregate of 7 or greater for English proficiency.
• Excellent written and oral communication skills and proven record of research productivity.
• Laboratory experience with handling animal tissue, image analysis or microscopy would be advantageous but is not essential.



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