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Novel Molecular Regulators of Human Endothelial Cell Barrier Function in Cardiovascular Disease

About this project

This cluster of three interlinked projects will be focussed on defining the molecular mechanisms and signalling pathways that regulate human endothelial cell function in chronic diseases following our recent discoveries at the University of Hull. The key pathologies to be studied are therapy-resistant cancers and cardiovascular disease. This research initiative involves eight academics with research expertise in basic cell biology, clinical research, oncology and respiratory/cardiovascular disease. The goal of this collaborative network is to establish novel genomic and proteomic big data pipeline that can be used by the global scientific community to decipher human endothelial cell biology in chronic diseases for their improved diagnosis and treatment. 

Three projects offer prospective students an opportunity to work within an interactive and dynamic environment at the School of Life Sciences and the Hull-York Medical School, which house state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and resources for undertaking biomedical research. Students will receive training in laboratory techniques such as confocal microscopy, protein biochemistry, immunohistochemistry, RNAi-mediated gene knockdown, whole genome analysis and clinically relevant three-dimensional models of human endothelial cell function in chronic diseases. They will also use the University of Hull High Performance Computer VIPER (largest supercomputer in the North of England) and big data computational approaches, including bioinformatics, and become part of a wider collaborative network that involves researchers based at the University of Oxford and University College London. The generous research budget to cover laboratory costs (£9000) and opportunities to travel for collaborations and other meetings or conferences will be provided in addition to the stipend to all three successful candidates.

The University of Hull offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a three-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant research community and will be supervised by the experts in the fields of cancer and cardiovascular biology, as well as supported by the rest of the Cluster members. Three PhD students will become members of our rapidly expanding postgraduate community of next generation researchers, and supported by regular laboratory meetings, seminars and journal clubs. All students will undertake a three-month professional start-up training at the beginning of their study. The PhD scholarship scheme and three projects offer exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by the supervisors and the cluster advisory committee.  

Novel molecular regulators of human endothelial cell barrier function in cardiovascular disease. 

Supervisor: Dr Francisco Rivero

Endothelial cell dysfunction is the hallmark of the development of cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis, a pathology that causes some of the very costly medical conditions. Various stress stimuli, such as high LDL levels in the blood, can contribute to this process by causing an inflammatory response that triggers changes in gene expression, disruption of the endothelial cell barrier, increased permeability and, ultimately, irreversible changes in blood vessel structure. The early key signalling pathways of this process are unknown.

Stress commonly affects key signalling pathways that ensure the maintenance of the endothelial barrier. Recently, we have identified novel interacting partners of a one of the key components of the phosphorylation/de-phosphorylation cycle that relays signals from the plasma membrane to the contractile machinery and ultimately regulates the endothelial cell barrier. The PhD student will apply genomics and proteomics approaches to study primary human endothelial cell response to various stress stimuli, and will use computational biology approaches with an overall aim to identify key early regulators of endothelial dysfunction. This knowledge will help discover and fully characterise intracellular pathways and gene expression changes modulated by the novel interactions we have found and will contribute to the development of the strategies to diagnose, prevent or therapeutically manage atherosclerosis and other chronic cardiovascular conditions.


You are strongly advised to contact a potential supervisor and to discuss your research proposal, well before you submit an application. Please refer to the Faculty of Health Sciences research pages.

For further information regarding this project please contact Dr Francisco Rivero.

Next steps


To celebrate the University's research successes, the University of Hull is offering a full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship or International Fees Bursary.

Entry requirements

Applicants with at least an upper 2nd class honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent, in cell or molecular biology and/or vascular biology (or related discipline) and/or bioinformatics, together with relevant research experience, are encouraged to apply. It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have a 1st class honours undergraduate degree or Masters level qualification. 

How to apply

Applications for scholarship consideration at the University of Hull should be made through the Hull York Medical School postgraduate application system.

Please select PhD in Medical Sciences with a start date of “2018 October, full time” and quote the specific project title you wish to apply for. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to first identify and contact a potential supervisor. 

Apply now

Application deadline: Monday 19 February


Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£14,553 in 2017/18) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.