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Understanding the role of the pericardial adipose and locally synthesized steroids in the heart

Department of Physiology

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Prof LM Delbridge , Dr JR Bell Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a PhD student to join the Cardiac Phenomics laboratory at the University of Melbourne. Our University is ranked 9th in the world for pre-clinical biomedical research (Times Higher Education). Successful applicants will be a part of a dynamic team with a mission to understand how the heart response to stress can be managed to minimize damage under various disease conditions. Our preclinical work, as our name suggests, looks at how the cardiac genome (genetically defined heart) is translated in different stressor situations to create the phenome (the structurally and functionally defined heart). The successful candidate will be expected to present their work at national and international conferences, and participate in collaborations with major national and international partners and local Universities/Institutes.

See our relevant publications here:

This project is in the field of cardiac physiology, with a focus on sex steroids, adiposity and cardiac arrhythmias. Important differences exist between women and men with regard to cardiovascular disease. This is likely related to sex steroid (estrogen and testosterone) actions on the heart. However, recent controversies about the use of sex steroid therapies in men and women highlight a lack of understanding of the underlying mechanisms by which sex and sex steroids influence the heart. We have recently shown in humans that both the myocardium and cardiac adipose express the enzyme aromatase – showing that estrogen synthesis can occur within the myocardium. In addition, the adipose around the heart can act as a paracrine modulator of heart function, but the mechanisms remain elusive. In aging/obesity, when the onset of cardiovascular disease is prominent, the influence of this local paracrine system likely increases. This project will use molecular and tissue recording studies of human and rodent tissues to determine how factors synthesized by the fat within and around the heart contribute to the development of cardiac rhythm and relaxation abnormalities.

Specific areas of research:
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Adipose secretome
- Calcium cycling
- Cardiomyocyte Electrophysiology

If successful, you will join an active research group that utilizes state of the art techniques to discover novel therapeutic interventions. Some of these techniques include

- Microelectrode array of tissue and cultures
- Cell culture
- Cardiomyocyte live cell imaging
- Mass spectrometry
- Isolated heart perfusions
- Biochemical assays
- Echocardiography and electrocardiography

Please see our lab website for more information about our research:

Fees: If you are a new international PhD student the annual 2019 tuition fee is AUD$45,440 per annum. Fee paying positions are not available for domestic students. A Student services fee of AUD$308 per annum applied for domestic students. Scholarships to cover fees and living costs are available for competitive candidates. Please see the links in the funding section.

In brief the entry requirements to undertake a PhD at the University of Melbourne are a minimum weighted average mark (WAM) of 80% or equivalent (e.g. approx. GPA equivalent of 3.5 of a scale of 4). In addition, applicants must have completed a bachelors degree with first class honours, or a masters degree in Biomedical science, Physiology or related subject. You must have completed a substantial research project, dissertation or thesis, at university level.

Please see the following links for further information:

Self funding students who have been successful in obtaining support are encouraged to apply.

For University of Melbourne, the standard scholarship application deadline for Semester 1 2020 is 31st October 2019. Late applications may be accepted for second round offers, and periodic calls for project strategic scholarship funding may also arise. Please see information for eligibility and scholarships in the Funding Notes below.

Funding Notes

A number of scholarships are available to provide support to cover fees and living costs. The scholarships are highly competitive, and you will typically need a minimum average mark (WAM) of 80% to be eligible for a University of Melbourne Graduate Research Scholarship. We highly recommend that you calculate your weighted average mark before applying.

For more details on scholarships and eligibility to apply please see the links below.
Domestic Eligibility:
International Eligibility:


Wells SP, Waddell HM, Sim CB, Lim SY, Bernasochi GB, Pavlovic D, Kirchhof P, Porrello ER, Delbridge LMD, Bell JR. (2019) Cardiomyocyte functional screening - interrogating comparative electrophysiology of high-throughput model cell systems. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2019 Oct 2. [Epub]

Bernasochi GB, Bell JR, Simpson ER, Delbridge LMD, Boon WC.
(2019) Impact of Estrogens on the Regulation of White, Beige, and Brown Adipose Tissue Depots. Compr Physiol. 14;9(2):457-475.

Bernasochi GB, Boon WC, Delbridge LMBell JR. (2018) The myocardium and sex steroid hormone influences. Current Opinion in Physiology. 6:1-9.

Bernasochi GB, Boon WC, Curl CL, Varma U, Pepe S, Tare M, Parry LJ, Dimitriadis E, Harrap SB, Nalliah CJ, Kalman JM, Delbridge LMD, Bell JR. (2017) Pericardial adipose and aromatase: A new translational target for aging, obesity and arrhythmogenesis? J Mol Cell Cardiol. 111:96-101
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