Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor Michael Taggart

Chair of Reproductive Sciences

Background

Qualifications & Awards

BSc Honours in Physiology, University of Glasgow.
PhD in Biochemistry, University of London.                                                                                                                               FRSB (Fellow of Royal Society of Biology - elected 2011) 

Previous Positions

2006-2007: Reader in Reproductive & Cardiovascular Physiology, University of Manchester.

2001-2006: Senior Lecturer, Cardiovascular Research/Maternal & Fetal Health Research Centre, Manchester University.

2001-2001: Lecturer, Cardiovascular Research & Maternal & Fetal Health Research Centre, Manchester University

1999-2001: Lecturer, Department of Medicine, Manchester University.

1998-1999: Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Department of Medicine, Manchester University.

1995-1998: Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, The Physiological Laboratory, Liverpool University.

1991-1995: Post-doctoral research associate, The Physiological Laboratory, Liverpool University.

1986-1990: PhD student, Department of Cardiac Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London.


1998-2006: Visiting Research Scientist, Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Boston, MA, USA.

1999-2002: Visiting Scientist, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.

Memberships

Royal Society of Biology (www.rsb.org.uk)

The Physiological Society (www.physoc.org)

British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society (www.bmfms.org.uk)



Research

Research Interests

Our laboratory investigates the cellular, tissue and organ remodelling events that occur in the mother and fetus during pregnancy and the impact these have for post-natal life to adulthood. The regulation of these adaptations is crucial for the mother to support the growing embryo/fetus and ensure a successful pregnancy outcome. This is important because common complications of pregnancy such as preterm birth - arising from fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia or preterm labour - can result in very serious immediate or lifelong health issues for the mother and any surviving babies. Of particular note here are the increased risks of developing cardiovascular disease.

We generally use three experimental paradigms. First, in liaison with clinical colleagues, and via the auspices of the Newcastle Uteroplacental Tissue Bank (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/biobanks/collections/nutb/), we often use fresh human tissue biopsies for our experiments. These are obtained, following informed consent, from non-pregnant or pregnant women.  Second, allied to this we use suitable animal models of human pregnancy that enable precisely timed measurements and/or investigation of interventions in a pre-clinical setting. One such understudied but very valuable model is the guinea pig. Third, we make use of a variety of computational modelling approaches to interrogate and interpret complex data.

A range of experimental techniques are employed to these ends including: live cell confocal fluorescent microscopy (Ca2+ imaging, fluorescent molecule tracking), optical mapping of tissue electrogenesis (cardiac and uterine action potentials), tissue contractility (e.g. isobaric or isometric myography of small arteries), ultrastructural examination by transmission-EM and serial block face-EM and molecular expression studies using RNA sequencing and label-free proteomics.

Presently, our research concentrates on three tissue/organ settings:

         * Vasculogenesis, vascular remodelling and ageing.

         * Cardiac remodelling from fetus to adult.

         * Alterations in uterine smooth muscle phenotype during pregnancy.

By studying these different aspects, we are trying to

(i) gain insight to the ways in which human cells/tissues/organs can respond when challenged to their physiological limits

and

(ii) better understand how these parameters become overwhelmed in situations that result in pathophysiological outcomes such as cardiovascular disease (heart failure, hypertension, atherosclerosis) and preterm birth.

You can read some examples of our research here: 

Human vascular studies (http://rdcu.be/v6mk; doi:10.1083/molehr/gat095; doi:10.1083/molhr/gat045)

Cardiac remodelling (doi:10.3389/fphys.2014.00399; doi:10.1093/cvr/cvu198)

Smooth muscle protein modifications (doi:10.1016/j.tips.2015.06.003; doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.278549)

Computational modelling (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018685;  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114034) 

Animal models (doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00153.2009)

Postgraduate Supervision

13 PhD/MD students successfully supervised for postgraduate research degrees since 2001. Presently supervise 2 PhD students.

Enquiries are welcome from prospective Md/PhD students with secured funding, or who wish to apply for funding, in the following topics:

1. Molecular signatures of cardiac and blood vessel remodelling in health and disease

2. Structural remodelling of blood vessels in health and disease as studied by 3-D electron microscopy

 Funding

Research in our laboratory has been supported by:

Medical Research Council (http://www.mrc.ac.uk)
British Heart Foundation (http://www.bhf.org.uk)
The Wellcome Trust (http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk)
Action Medical Research (http://www.action.org.uk)                                                                                                           Wellbeing of Women (http://www.welbeingofwomen.org.uk)                                                                                                   British Maternal & Fetal Medicine Society (http://www.bmfms.org.uk)


Teaching

I teach on several undergraduate/postgraduate degree courses. The lectures often contain information from research activities associated with the taught topics, sometimes including examples of experimental data originating from our Newcastle laboratory.  Students are thereby encouraged to be curious, develop critical thought and engage with the scientific research basis of the topic.


Postgraduate Teaching.

I am programme and module lead for the Cardiovascular Science in Health and Disease MRes degree.

Module information is available at: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/postgraduate/modules/MMB8037/

I also teach on the Cell Cycle and Cell Signalling in Health and Disease module (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/postgraduate/modules/MMB8008)

In addition, each year our laboratory supports students to undertake a 6 month research project component of their MRes degree. Students are welcome to inquire about forthcoming research topics. In recent years, we have offered MRes research projects  in the following general areas:

• Establishing Proteomic Signatures that Define Human Blood Vessel Maturation

• Investigating Key Structural Features of Cardiac Remodelling

• Novel Regulation of HumanUteroplacental Function by Ca2+/Calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II


Undergraduate teaching.

I teach on the BSc Honours Physiological Sciences degree course (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/undergraduate/degrees/b100/#courseoverview

Modules:

Reproductive and Developmental Physiology (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/undergraduate/modules/psc2015/)

Advanced Systems Physiology: Cardiovascular, Respiratory & Renal (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/undergraduate/modules/psc2017/)   


I teach on the BSc Honours Pharmacology degree course (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/undergraduate/degrees/b210/#courseoverview)

Module:

Cardiovascular System for Pharmacologists (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/undergraduate/modules/psc2026/)

In addition, each year our laboratory hosts BSc Honours students undertaking their final year 9/10-week Project module.  Examples of BSc HOnours research projects offered in recent years include:

• Developmental Changes in the Expression of Striated Muscle Sarcomeric Proteins

• The Alteration of Cardiac EC Coupling Proteins during Ageing

• Use of Small Molecule Inhibitors to Reduce Cytokine Proinflammatory Signalling in Human Smooth Muscle Cells

Publications