Mammalian coronary vascular development and its interaction with the extracellular matrix

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage

Summary The focus of the Smith group is to identify the genetic and cellular processes that regulate heart development. The heart develops by differentiating and integrating multiple tissue types via a specific sequence of events to generate the stereotypical structure of the organ. The fact that this structure is more or less identical between individuals demonstrates that a tightly controlled genetic program instructs this process. The lab is interested in identifying the genes in this program, determining how they function and uncovering the cellular processes they regulate. We use the zebrafish model for much of our discovery-based projects. The zebrafish is an excellent genetic model and the transparency of the embryos and availability of fluorescent transgenic reporter lines permits live imaging of organogenesis. For particularly important projects, we translate our discoveries to the mouse models to investigate evolutionary conservation. The long-term objective of the lab is to contribute to our knowledge of how to build a heart, gathering along the way information that will assist bioengineering efforts and help with diagnosis and treatment of genetic-based heart disease. "

Project Details

The heart is a large and highly metabolic organ that requires its own blood supply to continue to respire and function. The coronary vasculature is a specialised network of blood vessels that carries oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to and from the heart. Cardiac arrest or myocardial infarction occurs due to occlusions of the coronary vasculature. It is the leading cause of death in the western world, providing a testament to how important this vascular network is. Blood vessels grow via sprouting angiogenesis, invading tissues that need a blood supply. This growth is dependent on growth factor signalling and growth factor signalling involves modification of the extracellular matrix. As the name suggests, the extracellular matrix (or ECM) exists outside the cell and is often described as a scaffold or network for cell-cell communication and for cells to adhere to. The ECM is composed of many different components, one of which is Hyaluronic Acid. We have identified a new enzyme that degrades Hyaluronic Acid and have shown an early role in embryonic angiogenesis in the trunk of the zebrafish embryo. We hypothesise this enzyme is essential for coronary vascular formation and have generate a mouse model to study this. The project will involve the analysis of mouse embryonic hearts to determine how the coronary vasculature is developing under normal and conditions of disturbed Hyaluronic Acid turn-over.

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

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