Atrial fibrillation is a frequent disturbance of the cardiac rhythm, occurring in 1-2% of the population. This arrhythmia is associated with significant morbidity and mortality (heart failure, stroke). Atrial fibrillation has multiple etiologies (e.g., hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, etc) that present a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. One important pathophysiological mechanism underlying atrial fibrillation is “cardiac remodeling“, a process characterized by changes in electrical and structural properties of atrial tissue in response to heart disease. Structural remodeling involves the activation of fibroblasts, which, by excess synthesis of extracellular matrix, disrupt the normal atrial tissue architecture and alter its electrophysiological properties, thus contributing to the self-perpetuation of atrial fibrillation.
In our laboratory, electrophysiological properties of cardiac cells and myo/fibroblasts are assessed experimentally and conduction characteristics are investigated using state-of-the art methods in engineered tissue models consisting of cultures of cardiac cells and myo/fibroblasts. In collaboration with researchers conducting the experiments, the principal aim of the candidate will be to develop computer simulation models based on experimental data permitting to investigate arrhythmogenic mechanisms in detail (slow conduction, conduction block, ectopic activity), to identify the changes in the cellular structure of diseased atria that precipitate fibrillation, and ultimately to test, in-silico, new therapeutic strategies to counteract atrial fibrillation.
The project is supported by the Bern chapter of the European Network for Translational Research in Atrial Fibrillation (EUTRAF), funded by the Commission of the European Union under the FP7 framework. The integration into the EUTRAF consortium and the presence of other cardiac electrophysiology research groups in the department provide multiple opportunities for collaborations and scientific exchange.
Doctoral degree in a scientific discipline pertaining to the project (life sciences, biomedical sciences, engineering, applied physics).
Knowledge in mathematics and experience with computer programming (e.g., Matlab, C/C++) as well as motivation to apply skills to the analysis of experimental data and the development of computer models in cardiovascular sciences is an advantage.
Entrance upon: The position is open immediately.
Duration: 3 years
Salary at the postdoctoral level according to the guidelines of the Swiss National Science Foundation.