Development of an in vitro cardiovascular model for drug screening

Based in the lab of Dr Rebecca Lewis, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, this is a multidisciplinary project in collaboration with the Department of Physics. 

Application deadline
Funding source
This PhD studentship has been generously funded by the Legacy of Mr Kenneth Longhurst.
Funding information

A stipend in line with RCUK funding levels, materials and consumables will be provided from the research project. The student is expected to pay standard tuition fees for postgraduate research.


Healthy cardiac tissue is exposed to a constant mechanical stress and strain from elastic contraction and relaxation, and cells must appropriately respond to electrical stimuli carried through the tissue to enable unified contraction. It has been shown that disturbances in these excitation patterns creates a risk of life-threatening arrhythmias for patients. Additionally, a key aspect of gaining regulatory approval of drugs developed for human patients or other species requires cardiac safety trials.

There is a need for an efficient, reliable and cost-effective assay for cardiac safety screening through a comprehensive in vitro pro-arrhythmic protocol. This will require the establishment of native cardiac myocyte cell lines on electrically stimulated carbon nanotube scaffolds that are suitable for interrogation using various drug challenges. Such a platform will allow us to test existing drugs for repurposing efforts as well as new drugs in the pipeline.

The aim of this project is to establish an understanding of the interactions between cardiomyocytes and carbon nanotube scaffolds on a nanoscale, by characterising the phenotype of cells on these scaffolds, and to then use this knowledge to develop an in vitro cardiovascular model for drug testing. Therefore, this project will develop a conductive carbon nanotube scaffold, which reliably promotes cardiomyocyte growth in culture, and then utilise this to induce arrhythmia through electrical stimulation of the cells. These scaffolds can then be coated with pro and anti-arrhythmic drugs and drug efficiency determined. Evaluation of cell phenotype and electrophysiological function will be a significant part of this work throughout.  

This is a multidisciplinary project involving physics, engineering, materials science and life sciences, therefore it will give the successful applicant an exciting opportunity to work across the scientific disciplines.

This project will be supervised by Dr Rebecca Lewis, Dr Izabela Jurewicz and Dr Kamalan Jeevaratnam. Training in all techniques will be provided by the supervisory team. The student will be strongly encouraged to participate in workshops and networking opportunities run by the Researcher Development Programme and to present their research at internal and external conferences.

Related links
Researcher Development Programme

Eligibility criteria

Applicants should have a first-class or upper second-class honours or equivalents in Biomedical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Physiology or a related subject. A masters degree in a biology-related subject is desirable but not essential. If English is not your first language, you must have IELTS 7 with at least 6.5 in all components.

How to apply

Please apply for this studentship through the Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD course page and click on the “Apply” tab.

Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Rebecca Lewis to discuss the project informally prior to applying.

Application deadline

Contact details

Rebecca Lewis
01 VSM 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 682396
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