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Prof Sean Davidson
3rd floor
The Hatter Cardiovascular Inst
67 Chenies Mews
Prof Sean Davidson profile picture
  • Professorial Research Fellow
  • Pre-clinical & Fundamental Science
  • Institute of Cardiovascular Science
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences

I obtained my PhD from La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) investigating how heat shock proteins (HSPs) can protect cells from stress and injury. I then moved to Paris for a postdoctoral position in the Département de Biologie at l'École Normale Supérieure, one of the most selective and prestigious French "grandes écoles". Here, I demonstrated that certain members of this protein family called “small heat shock proteins” are  essential for early heart development. In 1998, I moved to London and am now a Professorial Research Associate at the Hatter Cardiovascular Institute at University College London. Here, I have been investigating novel methods to protect the heart from ischaemia and reperfusion injury. I am currently leading a programme of research to investigate the cellular response to endogenous nanoparticles called exosomes, and their potential role in cardioprotection, funded by grants from the Medical Research Council and British Heart Foundation.

I am actively involved in committees of several national and international societies dedicated to cardiovascular research including the following roles:

2020-present     Chair of the ESC working group on Cellular Biology of the Heart.

2012-present   Nucleus Committee member: ESC working group – Cellular Biology of the Heart

2018-present     Council member of The International Society of Heart Research (ISHR) European Section

2011-2018         Committee member of British Society for Cardiovascular Research (BSCR)

I am Associate Editor for the journals Cardiovascular Research, Basic Research in Cardiology, Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy, and Scientific Reports.

Research Summary

The aim of my research over the past 15 years has been to discover new ways of protecting the heart from the damage caused by myocardial infarction (heart attack). We were the first to demonstrate the role of mitochondrial morphology in cardioprotection, and to show that inhibitors of the necroptosis pathway of cell death are cardioprotective. I have used my skills in confocal and multiphoton microscopy to show that many cardioprotective agents act by protecting the mitochondria - specifically by delaying opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP). 

My main topics of interest currently are exosomes and PI3Kinase. Exosomes are nano-sized vesicles which can communicate between cells, carrying proteins and miRNA. We were one of the first to suggest that exosomes could be cardioprotective. We are now studying the mechanism of this protection in order to harness the power of exosomes to the benefit of patients. The PI3Kinases are a family of proteins that are the most important cardioprotective signalling pathways in the heart. We are investigating how the different isoforms of PI3kinases protect the heart, and finding ways to specifically activate the protective kinases in the heart.

One of my favourite techniques is to use powerful imaging techniques such as confocal and multiphoton microscopy to visualize real-time, physiological changes in cardiac cells and hearts. Using fluorescent dyes it is possible to detect changes in such important parameters as oxidative stress, calcium, and mitochondrial morphology and activity, and to quantify the effects that protective treatments have on these parameters.

Teaching Summary

I am active in teaching at UCL and deliver cardiovascular lectures on a wide range of courses including the following :

 CELL0015       Year 3 Mitochondrial biology & metabolism in human disease

Mitochondria and ischaemia 2: Ischaemic heart disease”

IMIN3004        Year 3 Cellular Pathology

Signalling: Calcium pathway part 1

Signalling: Calcium pathway part 2

BIOC0019       Years 3&4, Molecular Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease

“Free Radicals, oxidation and cardiovascular disease”

“Nitric oxide and vascular disease”

PHOL0007      Year 3 Heart & Circulation (was PHOL3002)

“Excitation – contraction coupling”

“Pathophysiology of myocardial Ischaemia-Reperfusion and Cardioprotection”

“Cell signalling in myocardial protection”

CARDG002     MSc    Cardiovascular Science, animal models course

“Advanced imaging of the heart”

PHOL0003      Year 2 Animal and Human Physiology course (was PHOL2001)

“Cardiovascular system 1”

“Cardiovascular system 2”                 

MECHG0031 MSc Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering

                        “Cardiac regeneration and tissue engineering”


I lead the "Animal models" module for the MSc Cardiovascular Science. I also co-ordinate and teach on the SSC "cardiovascular medicine" for first year medical students.

01-OCT-2019 Professorial Research Associate The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute University College London, United Kingdom
01-JUN-2016 Principal Research Associate Institute of Cardiovascular Science University College London, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2019   ATQ03 - Recognised by the HEA as a Fellow University College London
1998   Doctor of Philosophy La Trobe University
1991   Bachelor of Science (Honours) University of Melbourne
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