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Judy Sayers

DPhil Student

I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, specialising in Cell and Developmental Biology. I then completed a Research Masters' in Genetics in the St Johnston Lab at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, studying axis establishment and symmetry breaking during early Drosophila development.  

In 2019 I started my DPhil as part of the Wellcome PhD programme in Chromosome and Developmental Biology, supported by an Oxford MRC-DTP Scholarship. After rotating through three labs in my first year, I joined the Riley group for my full DPhil project. I am investigating the regeneration of the cardiac conduction system.

The heart’s rhythmic contraction and relaxation cycle is controlled by specialised cells embedded in the muscle wall that make up the cardiac conduction system. Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in the world and occur when a coronary artery is blocked resulting in cell death and loss of a large portion of heart muscle. The lost muscle is replaced by non-contractile scar tissue and heart function is compromised. The cycles of contraction and relaxation are also compromised, because control by the conduction system of cardiomyocyte contraction is disrupted by the tissue damage. This results in irregular and unsynchronized heartbeats, which increase mortality risk for patients who have survived a heart attack. How the cardiac conduction system is remodelled after a heart attack is not currently known. My research investigates the molecular and cellular response of the cardiac conduction system to heart injury in mouse models that fully restore their heart tissue in early life, but undergo scar formation and pathological remodelling at later adult stages.