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PhD Project, The University of Birmingham: Advanced in Vitro and in Silico Models to predict and Prevent Deep Venous Thrombosis

University of Birmingham - School of Chemical Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Birmingham
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,009
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 18th March 2019
Expires: 17th June 2019

Supervisors: Dr D Vigolo, Dr A Brill, Dr A Alexiadis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a life-threatening and debilitating condition where blood clots form within the deep veins (e.g. the femoral vein in the leg). These clots can become unstable and cause fatal conditions such as pulmonary embolism (PE) [Esmon, Blood Rev., 23, 2009; Bovill et al., Annu. Rev. Physiol., 73, 2011]. DVT and PE combined cause 25,000 deaths annually in the UK [Hunt, Br. J. Haematol., 144, 2009]. At the moment, the need for a prediction tool is widely recognised.

With this project, we aim to investigate and understand the predictors of DVT based on a novel closer-to-reality in-vitro and in silico model developed by reproducing the anatomy of animal models in order to reduce their unnecessary use.

We have already developed computational simulations [Ariane et al., Comput. Biol. Med., 89, 2017; Ariane et al., Comput. Fluids, 166, 2018] and experimental microfluidic models [Schofield et al., Submitted, 2019] of flow disturbances around valves of the veins. Here, we will develop advanced microfluidic in-vitro models, in which endothelial cells will be grown to mimic blood vessels and flexible valves without the need of sacrificing animals. We will then study the influence of blood flow characteristics on thrombus development Additionally, we will develop computational simulations. In the in-silico model we will be able to finely tune the three-dimensional geometry of the vein and valves, and to independently quantify the relative influence of each parameter on the insurgence of DVT. This novel approach will clarify the role of pathological blood flow in thrombosis initiation and propagation, and identify new factors predisposing to DVT. This will allow a personalized approach to identification and prophylaxis of people at major risk. We will then be able to follow the thrombus formation process and analyse the anatomical characteristics increasing thrombosis incidence. This is particular important as current protocols based on in-vivo studies failed to identify this. Moreover, this approach requires the use of thousands of animals worldwide that can be saved by implementing our approach. 

The project is intrinsically multi-disciplinary and thus will require the PhD candidate to be highly motivated and interested in learning a wide range of scientifically challenging topics including microfluidics, cell biology, computational fluid dynamics and biotechnology. Previous experience with optical microscope, cell culture and computational methods will be highly appreciated but are not strictly required to apply.

Applicants should have a Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Biophysics or Chemistry degree.

This project is fully funded by the NC3Rs (joint award with the BHF).

The award comprises the full payment of tuition fees at UK Research Councils UK/EU fee level (approx £5,000 per year) and an annual tax-free doctoral stipend at UK Research Councils UK/EU rates (£15,009 for 2019/20) to be paid in monthly instalments to the PhD candidate.

Due to funding restrictions, the position is fully funded for UK/EU applicants only. Non-EU applicants can still apply for the position but in case of acceptance of the position they will be required to pay the additional fee for international students (approx £15,000 per year).  Please send cv to Dr Daniele Vigolo, 

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