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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Thursday, 30 April 2020
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Honours, Master's
Paediatrics and Child Health (Wellington)
Dr Rebecca Dyson, Associate Professor Max Berry, Dr Clint Gray



Preterm birth is common, accounting for 10% of births in Aotearoa every year, and is associated with increased adult cardiovascular risk in survivors. This cardiovascular dysfunction is observed throughout the life-span in ex-preterm populations, with concerning differences seen in children as early as primary school age.

The aim of this project is to identify some of the underlying mechanisms, and in doing so, identify potential therapeutic targets in order to ameliorate this long-term risk of being born too early.


In order to do this, you will be working with our unique longitudinal guinea pig model of preterm birth. Juvenile guinea pigs will be subjected to a novel stress test which has been recently developed by our group and you will assess a range of circulating cardiac biomarkers in response to either whole body heating or cooling. These markers of cardiac function may include lactate, cardiac troponin, c-reactive protein, norepinephrine, and BNP levels, along with markers of oxidative stress/damage. These measures will be taken pre-testing, and at several relevant points post insult. These measures will then be correlated with measures of physiological (dys)function recorded throughout the related challenge.


This work will help us to identify the specific ways in which the preterm heart is responding differently to a relatively mild challenge (all data will be compared to term controls, who tolerate these challenges well based on pilot data). This is the first step in understanding preterm-associated cardiovscular dysfunction, and in developing therapeutic strategies to prevent or ameliorate this dysfunction.

Student Role

There will also be the opportunity to assist with animal work including performing cardiovascular assessments (ECG, non-invasive blood pressure, laser Doppler flowmetry/microvascular blood flow assessment, pulse oximetry) and assisting with blood collections.

You will be responsible for performing point of care blood gas analysis (iSTAT), running assays via an automated biochemistry analyser or via ELISA, and interpretation of physiological signals (LabChart).

Exposure to Scientific Methods

You will gain experience in the laboratory skills outlined above, and have the opportunity to work with a unique translational animal model, including specialised skills and procedures developed in our lab. Additionally, you will learn skills in literature review, statistics, scientific writing, and presentation.


Dr Rebecca Dyson
Tel +64 27 581 2969

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