PhD Studentship: Mechanisms of Cardiac Growth Induced by Leptin Exposure before Birth

Oxford Brookes University - Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

3 Year Full Time studentship

Eligibility: Home UK/EU applicants who must be permanently resident in UK/EU

Closing date: 12 January 2018 (midnight UK time)

Start Date: September 2018

Value p.a.: Bursary £14500 (for 2017/18) and fees.

Main supervisor: Dr Alison Forhead (

Growth and development of the fetal heart is regulated by hormones, with implications for cardiovascular health in adulthood. In a fetal sheep model, leptin stimulates cardiac growth, but the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible are unknown.

This project will adopt an integrative approach, combining a range of experimental techniques, to achieve two key goals:

1) to determine the effect of intrauterine leptin exposure in vivo on differentiation and growth-signalling pathways in the ovine fetal heart;

2) to elucidate the effect of leptin exposure in vitro on proliferation and morphology of isolated ovine fetal cardiomyocytes.

Expression of specific proteins important for cell proliferation, differentiation and maturation will be determined by qRT-PCR and Western blotting in ovine cardiac tissue obtained after prenatal leptin treatment. In collaboration with colleagues in the USA, the student will also examine the effects of leptin on the proliferation and nucleation of ovine fetal cardiomyocytes studied in vitro.

The findings will have important implications for the understanding of cardiovascular dysfunction in the offspring of mothers obese and/or diabetic during pregnancy, who are exposed to high leptin levels before birth.

As part of their Studentship, any successful applicant will be required to undertake up to 6 hours undergraduate teaching/demonstrating a week during semesters on undergraduate practicals without further remuneration. Training will be given.

Contact: Dr Alison Forhead (

Requirements: Applicants should be of the highest quality and capable of submitting a PhD thesis within 3 years. Applicants should have a first class or upper second class (minimum 2.1) honours degree from a Higher Education Institution in the UK or an acceptable equivalent qualification. EU Applicants must have an IELTS Academic test certificate with an overall minimum score of 7.0 and no score below 6.0 issued since 12th January 2016 by an approved test centre. We will consider alternative acceptable evidence of English Language ability.

Application procedure:

Applications only to

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