Using optogenetics to stimulate the vagus in heart failure

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students
Number of Honour Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Lindsea Booth
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Clive May
Dr Song Yao

Summary The cardiovascular branch of the Preclinical Critical Care Group at the Florey Institute is focused on understanding how genetic, neurochemical and structural changes that occur in the brain in cardiovascular disease, for example heart failure, contribute to changes in the autonomic nervous system and consequently disease progression.

Project Details

Heart failure is an epidemic of the third millennium, affecting an increasing number of Australians. Heart failure patients have a 5-year mortality rate of 75% and cost the health care system ~A$2.7 billion/year. Improved treatments to slow the progression and hospitalisation due to heart failure are required. High cardiac sympathetic drive and impaired vagal tone are powerful predictors of fatal arrhythmias and worsening cardiac function in heart failure. We have strong preliminary data showing that selective stimulation of a distinct subset of vagal fibres, rather than stimulation of the whole nerve, improves cardiac function in heart failure.

The current project uses optogenetic techniques to selectively activate efferent projections of the vagus nerve in a large animal model of heart failure. Investigate the changes in cardiac function (measuring contractility, ejection fraction, blood hormone levels) and responses to cardiovascular challenges, such as changes in blood pressure, in normal sheep and sheep with heart failure before and after selective vagal stimulation. Confirm site of injection and expression of optogenetic channels.

Techniques expected to be mastered during this honours project include – chronic recordings of cardiovascular variables in conscious large animals, quantitative immunohistochemistry, data analysis and statistical methods.

There is the potential for publication for motivated students. 

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students
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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