Self-funded PhD opportunities

Towards developing stem cells for cardiac therapy – Understanding the molecular basis of cardiac competence

  • Application end date: Applications accepted all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Susanne Dietrich

Cardiovascular disease is the most prevalent cause of death in industrialised countries, and is spreading world-wide. Since in humans the heart cannot regenerate, therapeutic options are limited. Efforts are being made to develop therapeutic cells/ stem cells from various stem cell types, for example from induced pluripotent stem cells. However, what constitutes a suitable therapeutic cell is unclear.

The heart develops from two sources of cells, the lateral and the paraxial head mesoderm, also known as 1st and 2nd heart fields. The lateral mesoderm is used-up quickly as it builds the primitive heart. In contrast, the paraxial mesoderm contributes cells for a long period of time and is essential to generate the mature, complex heart. Thus, the paraxial head mesoderm has long-lasting cardiac competence.

This project will characterise the molecular basis of cardiac competence in the paraxial head mesoderm, with the view to develop diagnostic criteria for therapeutic cells. Specifically, we will investigate how heart-specific genes are held in a ready-to-use state, analysing the chromatin configuration of these genes.

As the chicken heart closely resembles the human heart, we will use the chicken embryo as model. A combination of approaches in cell, molecular and developmental biology will be applied, most prominently chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and Chip-seq analyses.

In addition you will have access to a skills development program run by the university’s Graduate School. The experimental and analytical skills developed during this project will prepare the student well for a future career in academia or industry.

Research Group Web Site: 

Supervisor(s): Dr Susanne Dietrich (School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences)

Funding Status: Self funded - University fees (currently, £13,100 for International Students and £4,052 for Home and EU students). Consumables for this project will be covered.

Search terms: Cell Biology / Development, Genetics, Molecular Biology; Stem cells, heart, chicken embryo, ChIP

How to Apply: To make an enquiry, please contact

To apply, please use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Postgraduate Research’ heading on the following webpages:

When applying please note the project code PHBM3561017