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Fibrosis is a biological process of excessive collagen accumulation in extracellular space. A number of cardiovascular diseases are accompanied by fibrosis, such as ischemic heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and hypertension. Although advances have been made in elucidating some mechanisms underlying fibrosis and controlling fibrogenesis, the effective therapies are yet to be discovered.

Non-coding RNAs (e.g., microRNAs and long non-coding RNAs) have recently emerged as important players in controlling fibrogenesis, and the exact role of most of them is yet to be uncovered. We have recently shown that microRNA-31 is up-regulated in atrial cardiomyocytes from patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and is a major contributor to the cellular electrical changes. However, microRNA-31 is also upregulated in human atrial fibroblasts and the aim of this project is to elucidate the consequences of microRNA-31 up-regulation on fibrogenesis in human atria in AF.

Training Opportunities

Molecular  and cellular biology techniques (qRT-PCR, PCR, immunoblotting, immunoprecipitation, transfection, ELISA, BrDU, MTT, migration assay, asssessment of collagen accumulation , immunofluorescnece, RNAscope, etc), extensive cell culture experiments, gene array, ChIP, gain- and loss- of function assays, some in vivo and ex vivo mouse work.

As well as the specific training detailed above, students will have access to a wide-range of seminars and training opportunities through the many research institutes and centres based in Oxford. Students are also able to attend the Methods and Techniques course run by the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. This course runs through the year, ensuring that students have the opportunity to build a broad-based understanding of differing research techniques.

Generic skills training is offered through the Medical Sciences Division's Skills Training Programme. This programme offers a comprehensive range of courses covering many important areas of researcher development: knowledge and intellectual abilities, personal effectiveness, research governance and organisation, and engagement, influence and impact. Students are actively encouraged to take advantage of the training opportunities available to them.

The department has a successful mentoring scheme, open to graduate students, which provides an additional possible channel for personal and professional development outside the regular supervisory framework. We hold an Athena SWAN Silver Award in recognition of our efforts to support the careers of female students and staff.


Reilly SN, Liu X, Carnicer R, Recalde A, Muszkiewicz A, Jayaram R, Carena MC, Wijesurendra R, Stefanini M, Surdo NC, Lomas O, Ratnatunga C, Sayeed R, Krasopoulos G, Rajakumar T, Bueno-Orovio A, Verheule S, Fulga TA, Rodriguez B, Schotten U, Casadei B. 2016. Up-regulation of miR-31 in human atrial fibrillation begets the arrhythmia by depleting dystrophin and neuronal nitric oxide synthase. Sci Transl Med,  8 (340), pp. 340ra74

Research Themes, Tools and Technologies


Key Dates for October 2018 Entry

Application deadline:  12 noon GMT on Monday 8 January 2018

Interviews for shortlisted candidates: Week commencing Monday 22 January 

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How to apply

To apply for a place on the DPhil in Medical Sciences you will need to submit an application using the online application form.

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