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Endothelial Piezo1 channels of human placenta and their physiological roles


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Key facts

Type of research degree
4 year PhD
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (outside UK)
Professor David Beech
School of Medicine
Research groups/institutes
Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Piezo1 is an intriguing newly discovered membrane protein. Three Piezo1s assemble to form a trimeric Ca2+-permeable non-selective cationic channel which senses membrane tension. We showed that Piezo1 channels are critical mechanical force sensors of cardiovascular biology with special roles in vascular development and long-term implications for cardiovascular health and disease. In a seminal article we found that disruption of endothelial Piezo1 in mice caused growth retardation from embryonic day 9.5.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Moreover, endothelial cells of Piezo1-disrupted mice failed to respond to the frictional mechanical force of shear stress and reconstitution of Piezo1 channels in otherwise resistant cells conferred shear stress sensing (1, 2). We concluded that Piezo1 channels are critical sensors of shear stress driven by the newly beating heart, transducing this force into vascular maturation and organ perfusion. Furthermore we found that in adult physiology Piezo1 channels sense physical activity to advantageously reset vascular control (3). It has since been found that PIEZO1 mutations are linked to abnormalities in human lymphatic vascular development and non-immune hydrops fetalis. Therefore endothelial Piezo1 channels are important in human as well as mouse vascular development.</p> <p>The aim of this project is to determine the properties of single Piezo1 channels in endothelial cells freshly-isolated from human placentas of women who delivered babies of normal or low birth weight. The studies will test the hypothesis that functional abnormalities in Piezo1 channels are a factor underlying intrauterine growth restriction.</p> <p>The main techniques used in the studies will be methods for isolation of fresh endothelial cells, patch-clamp single channel and membrane potential recordings, methods for application of mechanical force, complementary biochemical and immunofluorescence approaches, and isobaric contraction recordings. Single channel recording is a specialized technique which yields highly quantitative and precise data about the properties of channels &ndash; it will be the primary focus of the main 3-year project.</p> <p>The project will involve the student in an exciting collaborative project between basic scientists at the university (Jian Shi, Melanie Ludlow and David Beech) and medical doctors at the adjacent teaching hospital (Lara Morley and Nigel Simpson).</p> <p>References:</p> <p>Li J et al., Piezo1 integration of vascular architecture with physiological force. Nature. 2014, 515(7526):279-82.</p> <p>Li J et al., Endothelial Piezo1: life depends on it. Channels (Austin). 2015;9(1):1-2</p> <p>Rode B et al., Piezo1 channels sense whole body physical activity to reset cardiovascular homeostasis and enhance performance. Nat Commun. 2017: 8:350</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Please note these are not standalone projects and applicants must apply to the PhD academy directly.</p> <p>Applications can be made at any time. To apply for this project applicants should complete a<a href=""> Faculty Application Form</a> and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School <a href=""></a></p> <p>We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these <a href="">references</a> on your behalf, directly to <a href=""></a></p> <p>If you have already applied for other projects using the Faculty Application Form this academic session you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email fmhgrad to inform us you would like to be considered for this project.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

A degree in biological sciences, dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, psychology or a good honours degree in a subject relevant to the research topic. A Masters degree in a relevant subject may also be required in some areas of the Faculty. For entry requirements for all other research degrees we offer, please contact us.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests for PhD, MSc, MPhil, MD are: &acirc;&euro;&cent; British Council IELTS - score of 7.0 overall, with no element less than 6.5 &acirc;&euro;&cent; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 100 with the listening and reading element no less than 22, writing element no less than 23 and the speaking element no less than 24.

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Graduate School Office<br /> e: <a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 8221</p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>