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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Dr Dunja Aksentijevic


Wellcome Trust Career Re-Entry Fellow, Reader in Cardiovascular Physiology and Metabolism, WHRI Deputy Representative for Global Engagement and WHRI Deputy Academic Lead for EDI

Centre: Biochemical Pharmacology

Telephone: +44(0) 20 7882 5920
Twitter: @dunjaaks


Programme Lead
MSc Clinical Drug Development, MSc Healthcare Research MethodsMRes Clinical Research

Dr Dunja Aksentijevic is a Reader at the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London. Dunja graduated from the University of Hull in 2004 with a BSc (Hons First Class) in Biomedical Science and was the recipient of the Faculty of Science Academic Scholarship. She was awarded the University of Hull Frederick Atkinson Prize Scholarship and NHS Renal Research Fund Fellowship for her doctoral studies to examine myocardial insulin resistance in chronic kidney disease. Immediately upon completion of her doctoral thesis in 2008, she joined the group of Prof Stefan Neubauer at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford.

Her first postdoctoral position focused on investigating the therapeutic potential of modulating myocardial energetics in heart failure. In 2013, she moved to King’s College London, The Rayne Institute, St Thomas Hospital as the senior research fellow in the laboratory of Prof Michael Shattock to study impact of sodium modulation on heart metabolism. In 2017 Dunja was appointed Lecturer in Physiology/Biochemistry at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London. In 2020, she joined William Harvey Research Institute (British Heart Foundation Accelerator Fellow) and in 2021 received her Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship. 

Current roles include Programme Lead for MSc Clinical Drug Development, MSc Healthcare Research Methods, MRes Clinical Research, Academic Visitor University of Oxford, Honorary Research Fellow King’s College London.

Awards and Honours

  • Queen Mary Education Excellence Award (Biomedical Science)
  • Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Corresponding Member
  • Queen Mary Faculty of Science and Engineering, Education Excellence Award
  • Teaching Excellence Award in Biomedical Science, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Institute of Biomedical Science




Group members
Dr Ivana Iveljic, Miss Silvia Fanti (co-supervisor), Miss Fariha Akter, Mr Nayan Dhokia, Miss Molly Horsfield and Mr Umar Hoque Chowdhury.

Heart failure affects over 64 million people worldwide, with few effective treatments available, therefore it is an enormous global medical and economic burden. Defects in cardiac metabolism are a major cause of heart failure, but this area has not been intensively investigated. Therefore, cardiac metabolism is a promising, unexplored subject for the development of novel therapies.

My research aims to determine how metabolic remodelling contributes to the pathophysiology of heart failure and from this develop novel therapies targeting metabolism. Ongoing projects include:

  1. The role of chronic inflammation in cardiac metabolic dysfunction in type 2 diabetes (Wellcome Trust Career Re-Entry Fellowship)
  2. Identification of novel metabolic therapeutic strategies to treat HF including replenishment of metabolic intermediates and modification of mitochondrial substrate utilization
  3. Cellular mechanism of cardiac metabolic derangement during chronic kidney disease.
  4. Impact of the pregnancy conditions on cardiometabolic syndrome and heart failure in the offspring.

To investigate these areas, I have developed techniques which integrate physiology with NMR spectroscopy (23Na, 31P, 13C, 1H) that enable assessment of cardiac metabolism in situ. Furthermore, my recently awarded Wellcome Trust Fellowship (in partnership with AstraZeneca) will focus on heart failure due to chronic inflammation driven by systemic metabolic stress in type 2 diabetes.

Key Publications

For a full list of publications click here 

  • Aksentijević D, Shattock MJ. With a grain of salt: Sodium elevation and metabolic remodelling in heart failure. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2021 Aug 8;161:106-115. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2021.08.003.
  • Yin, Z. Burger, N. Kula-Awar, D. Aksentijevic, D. et al. (2021) Structural basis for a complex I mutation that blocks pathological ROS production, Nature Communications, Jan 29;12(1):707. 
  • Aksentijevic et al. (2020) “Intracellular sodium elevation reprograms cardiac metabolism”, Nature Communications ,11(1), 1-14.
  • Prag, HA. Gruszczyk VA. Beach, TE, Young, T. Huang, MM. Tronci, L. Ascione, R. Hadjichambi, A. Shattock, MJ. Pellerin, L,Krieg, T., Saeb-Parsy, K., Frezza, C.  James, AM.  Murphy, MP. Aksentijevic, D. (2020) Mechanism of succinate efflux upon reperfusion of the ischaemic heart, Cardiovascular Research, doi:10.1093/cvr/cvaa148.
  • Cheung KCP. Fanti S. Mauro C. Wang G. Nair AS. Fu H. Angeletti S. Spoto S. Fogolari M. Romano F. Aksentijevic D. et al. (2020) Nature Communications “Preservation of microvascular barrier function requires CD31 receptor-induced metabolic reprogramming”, Jul 17;11(1):3595.
  • Aksentijevic D. Zervou S. McAndrew D. Eykyn TR et al. (2020) Age-dependent decline in cardiac function in guanidinoacetate-N-methytransferase knockout mice”, Frontiers in Physiology, 10:1535.
  • Faulkes*, CG. Eykyn*, Aksentijevic D (2019) Letters in Biology “Cardiac metabolomic profile of the naked mole rat-glycogen to the rescue”, 15 (11) 20190710.
  • Aksentijevic, D. Lewis, H. Shattock, MJ. (2016) Assessing cardiac ‘effort’ and oxygen consumption in the Langendorff-perfused heart. Is rate-pressure product of any use? Experimental Physiology 101: 282–294
  • Eykyn, TR.* Aksentijevic, D.* et al. (2015) Multiple quantum filtered 23Na NMR revisited: Ratio of Triple/ Double quantum filtered signals correlate with [Nai] in the Langendorff perfused mouse heart *authors contributed 
 Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology 86:95-101.
  • Aksentijevic, D. et al. (2014) Cardiac dysfunction and peri-weaning mortality in malonyl-coenzyme A decarboxylase (MCD) knockout mice as a consequence of restricting substrate plasticity. 
 Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology 75:76-87
  • Chouchani E.* Pell V.* Gaude E. Aksentijevic, D. et al. (2014) Ischaemic accumulation of succinate controls reperfusion injury through mitochondrial ROS. Nature, 515(7527):431-5.
  • Lygate, CA. Aksentijevic, D. et al. (2013) Living without creatine: Unchanged voluntary exercise capacity and response to chronic myocardial infarction in creatine-deficient mice Circulation Research 112:945-955.
  • Ashrafian, H. Czibik, G*,Bellahcene, M* Aksentijevic, D. et al. (2012) Fumarate exerts cardioprotective effects via activation of the Nrf2 antioxidant pathway Cell Metabolism 15 (3): 361-371.
  • Aksentijevic D. et al. (2010) High energy phosphotransfer in the failing mouse heart: role of adenylate kinase and glycolytic enzymes European Journal of Heart Failure 12:1282-1289.
  • Aksentijevic, D. Bhandari, S. Seymour, A. M. (2009) Insulin resistance and altered glucose transporter 4 expression in experimental uremia Kidney International 75: 711-8.


Queen Mary University of London
Prof Federica Marelli-Berg (WHRI); Prof Mauro Perretti (WHRI); Prof Steffen Petersen (WHRI); Prof Magdi Yaqoob (WHRI); Dr Sian Henson (WHRI); Dr Maria P. Longhi (WHRI); Prof Andrew Tinker (WHRI); Prof Steven Rossiter (SBCS); Dr Chris Faulkes (SBCS); Dr Roberto Buccafusca (SBCS)

Prof Michael Murphy (University of Cambridge); Prof Thomas Krieg (University of Cambridge); Prof Michael Shattock (King’s College London); Dr Thomas Eykyn (King’s College London); Dr Dave Smith (Astra Zeneca UK); Prof Damian Tyler  (University of Oxford)

Dr Lana McClements, University of Technology Sydney, Australia; Prof Christoffer Laustsen, University of Aarhus, Denmark; Prof Heinrich Taegtmeyer, University of Texas, USA; Prof Anja Karlstaedt, Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre Los Angeles, USA

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