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Preterm birth and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease beginning in childhood

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 1 May 2020
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
PhD, Master’s, Honours
Paediatrics and Child Health (Wellington)
Dr Rebecca Dyson, Dr Clint Gray, Dr Max Berry


Preterm birth is common and is associated with increased adult cardiovascular risk. Compared to term-born infants, the early postnatal environment of preterm infants is pro-inflammatory, characterised by metabolic dysfunction and altered lipid metabolism. Atherosclerosis is a progressive pathological process, caused by an amalgamation of metabolic and inflammatory dysregulation. Early ‘programming’ of arteriosclerotic risk may underlie preterm-associated cardiovascular risk. The overall aim of this work is to characterise the sex-specific effects of preterm birth on central cardiovascular function and establish if preterm birth is associated with premature atherosclerosis development.

This project will use our established guinea pig model of prematurity. At 40d corrected postnatal age (equivalent to primary school age), cardiovascular function (blood pressure, heart rate, peripheral perfusion) will be assessed via thermal stress test. Aortas will be subjected to contractile function studies to better understand any functional changes observed. Aortas and hearts will undergo histopathological assessments including markers of atherosclerosis and inflammation. Early markers of atherosclerosis including VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and TGF-β will be examined. Other biomarkers of cardiovascular dysfunction will be assessed, including circulating triglycerides, cardiac troponin, and IGF-1.


Becs Dyson
Tel   027 581 2969