Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr. Miguel O. Bernabeu

Chancellor's Fellow

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Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes

Positions available

PhD Scholarships available for academic year 2018/19:

1. https://www.findaphd.com/search/ProjectDetails.aspx?PJID=90135

2. https://www.ed.ac.uk/usher/precision-medicine/how-to-apply/18-19-projects/2018-the-genetics-underlying-imaging-phenotypes


General funding information: funding opportunities exist through The University of Edinburgh (http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-funding/postgraduate) and the MRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) on Precision Medicine (http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees/index.php?r=site/view&id=919).


University funding for PhD students 2018/19, please get in touch if you would like me to consider supporting your application:

1. Principal’s Career Development Scheme (PCDS) - http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-funding/postgraduate/uk-eu/university-scholarships/development

2. China Scholarships Scheme (CSS)  - see http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-funding/china-council

3. Edinburgh Global Awards – http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-funding/postgraduate/international/global/research

4. Carnegie Studentships – http://www.ed.ac.uk/student-funding/postgraduate/uk-eu/other-funding/carnegie-trust or http://www.carnegie-trust.org/schemes/postgraduate-schemes

Research Interests

Abnormal vascularisation is a hallmark of multiple diseases. For example, insufficient vessel growth and regression of existing vascular networks contribute to disorders such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Conversely, uncontrolled vessel growth has been linked to tumorigenesis and retinopathies. The need of restoring the correct vascular density under these conditions has led to the development of the concept of vascular normalisation therapies (Jain, Science, 2005).


In recent years, researchers have discovered important molecular mechanisms regulating endothelial cell behaviour, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Furthermore, antiangiogenic approaches aimed at controlling vessel growth in cancer and eye disease led to the approval of therapeutics targeting VEGF (Crawford & Ferrara, Cell and tissue research, 2009). This approach has proved effective in treating age-related macular degeneration. However, only a fraction of cancer patients show benefit as tumours evolve resistance mechanisms towards VEGF receptor inhibitors (Bergers & Hanahan, Nature Review Cancer, 2008).


Therefore, there exists a pressing need for advancing our understanding of vascular biology at the basic science level and to translate these findings into the next generation of vascular normalisation therapies. Some promising avenues are: i) to understand how molecular- and cell-level mechanisms integrate to give rise to systems-level behaviour, and ii) to understand how the interplay between molecular regulation and environmental cues, such as mechanical forces, drives vascular patterning. My current research aims at bringing together experimental and computational methods in order to further our understanding of these two questions.



Between 2008 and 2011, I completed a doctorate in Computational Biology at the University of Oxford. The core of my doctoral research was the development of computational methods for the simulation of ventricular cardiac electrophysiology. My contributions became the basis of multiple subsequent Ph.D. projects and were pivotal for the success of the EU-FP7 grant VPH-preDiCT. During the project we had the opportunity to work closely with pharmaceutical companies in order to explore how mathematical modelling and simulation can be brought into their drug cardiotoxicity research pipeline. My work was also selected for presentation at the Heart Rhythm 2011 conference, one of the biggest international meetings on cardiac science, including basic, translational, and clinical research.


In 2011, I joined the Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology (CoMPLEX), UCL, where I worked on characterising the relationship between haemodynamics and vascular remodelling with a combination of computational and experimental methods. My work featured in the New Scientist magazine (#2906, Feb 2013) and has been published in journals and international conferences. During this time, I realised that a strong interaction between experimental and computational techniques is required in order to address the most pressing questions on how blood vessels respond to normal and abnormal flow conditions during development and disease. On this topic, I recently coauthored an opinion piece in the PLoS Computational Biology journal, which has received over 7,300 views since its publication.


In 2015, I was awarded a prestigious Chancellor's Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. My current research interests concern the study of vascular remodelling during angiogenesis in order to identify molecular targets for its regulation (in close collaboration with experimental groups at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, and the Institute for Molecular Medicine, University of Lisbon). In addition, I explore the translational potential of these findings for the treatment diabetic retinopathy with collaborators at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School.

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