Calcium signalling and regulation of heart cell function and growth

5 minute read

Graphic of human heart

How does calcium help the heart grow? Join a multidisciplinary team of bioengineers and physiologists to uncover the multi-scale control by calcium of heart size in health and disease. Gain international experience in Belgium and Australia in the process.

Come join our team to pursue research towards a PhD in cardiac calcium signalling and cell remodelling. This project is funded by the KU Leuven-Melbourne Global PhD programme and provides a unique opportunity to perform multi-disciplinary research at two world-leading universities.


Our lab focuses on identifying mechanisms underlying cardiac structural, contractile and electrical remodelling processes and how these contribute to cardiovascular disease. Our approach is multiscale, spanning from the cellular to the organ level, molecular mechanisms, left and right ventricular mechanics and impact of different interventions. We combine, transcriptomics, epigenomics and single-cell biology, advanced imaging, including super-resolution imaging, electrophysiology and in vivo imaging to uncover multi-scale control of heart structure and function. We employ cell models including induced pluripotent cells, rodent models of disease, preclinical porcine models and human tissues to discover new mechanisms for heart disease treatment.


The aim of this project is to identify mechanisms that enable Ca2+ to act with specificity to simultaneously regulate discrete functions such as growth, differentiation and contraction in cardiac myocytes. We are taking a multidisciplinary approach to address this aim, involving cell biology, biochemistry, and super-resolution imaging combined with advanced multi-scale computational modelling and AI. We will investigate how Ca2+ signals in different cellular sub-compartments are regulated and decoded to elicit effects on discrete cardiomyocyte functions. The analysis will be carried out in primary cardiomyocytes, iPS cell-derived cardiomyocytes and animal models.


Our laboratory is highly international consisting of post-doctoral scientists, PhD students and technicians. The lab will support you in gaining expertise in necessary areas and through our excellent local and international collaborators and core facilities, you will have access to additional expertise and tools.

Our lab is embedded in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences situated in the Biomedical Campus of KU Leuven, Belgium. It has the entire range of competencies from basic science, over pre-clinical modelling to applied clinical and epidemiological research, taking a systems approach to the complexity of cardiovascular disorders.

Project goals

  • To develop probes for specific modulation and measurement of calcium (Ca2+) concentrations in cellular microdomains.
  • To measure Ca2+ changes in cellular microdomains at baseline and in response to cell stimuli that initiate pathological and physiological remodelling of heart muscle cells (hypertrophic growth)
  • To test the influence of manipulation of Ca2+ concentrations in cellular microdomains on changes in gene transcription during the hypertrophic response to physiological and pathological stressors.
  • Model interactions between IGF/PI3K and InsP3 signaling pathways to determine how pathological and physiological hypertrophic stimuli modulate Ca2+ and downstream transcription factor dynamics to induce specific responses.

Supervision team

Who we are looking for:

  • A masters in lifesciences/physiology with an interest in quantitative methods or a masters in engineering/mathematics with an interest in cell biology.
  • You are motivated, have an enquiring mind and are excited by science.
  • You enjoy collaborating with your colleagues and externally to scientific advance.
  • You are a team player with excellent written and oral communication skills in English
  • You enjoy presenting your data to collaborators and to the community at scientific meetings.
  • You perform your research to the highest standards and integrity.

Further details

KU Leuven offers a stimulating environment for international students and support for junior scientists to achieve their ambitions and in career development.


The Melbourne based component of the project will be undertaken in Dr Vijay Rajagopal’s Bioengineering Laboratory at the Dept of Biomedical Engineering. Dr Rajagopal and the Department of Biomedical Engineering has situated in the world-renowned Parkville biomedical precinct – a nexus of patient care, cutting edge research and training. The successful candidate will spend a part of this joint PhD at Melbourne applying advanced computational techniques from Dr Rajagopal’s lab to uncover the biophysical principles of multi-scale calcium regulation of cardiac structure and function.

We will offer:

  • A fully funded Joint PhD candidacy
  • A stimulating and supportive environment in which you acquire expertise as a multidisciplinary researcher.
  • Opportunity to spend 1-1.5 y of your PhD in a lab in Melbourne.


Interested?

Please send your CV, motivation letter and 2 recommendation letters to:

Prof. Dr H. Llewelyn Roderick, Email: (Llewelyn.roderick@kuleuven.be). Please also apply via the online portal of KU Leuven.


Prof Vijay Rajagopal. E-mail: vijay.rajagopal@unimelb.edu.au

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