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The William Harvey Research Institute - Barts and The London

Dr Fiona Lewis-McDougall


Lecturer in Myocardial Repair & Regeneration

Centre: Centre for Microvascular Research

Telephone: +44(0) 20 7882 8238


Dr Fiona Lewis-McDougall completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Liverpool (Anatomy and Human Biology) and obtained her PhD at the UK Centre for Tissue Engineering, University of Liverpool. Subsequently, Fiona completed her post-doctoral research at the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. She recently joined the Centre for Microvascular Research at the WHRI as a lecturer in myocardial repair and regeneration. Fiona is now establishing her own research group to investigate the effect of ageing on induced pluripotent stem cells regenerative potential in cardiovascular disease.


•  Cardiac Repair and Regeneration 


Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death in the UK and worldwide. At present no widely available, restorative option exists therefore new strategies are required to identify a safe and efficient way of treating heart failure. In recent years, stem cells have emerged as a potentially valuable tool for repair of damaged hearts and a breakthrough discovery in 2006 identified that stem cells could be generated from a patient’s own skin cells. To date, these patient-specific cells, termed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been successfully generated from different aged patients however evidence suggests that iPSCs are generated from ‘aged’ cells at lower efficiency and may have deteriorated functions making them unsuitable for clinical application.

Fiona’s research focuses on understanding the effect of ageing on stem cell regenerative potential for cardiac repair and regeneration, she is currently pursuing two major research themes.

  1. Influence of donor age/disease on iPSC potential
  2. Exosomes for cardiac repair and regeneration

Aging is determined not only by chronological age but also by health condition therefore rigorous testing of cells from ‘aged’ cardiovascular disease patients both before, during and after conversion to an iPSC phenotype will provide a clear indication on their suitability for clinical application.  Identification of key ‘ageing’ signatures and their association with cellular reprogramming will enable pre-screening of donor cells both before and after iPSC conversion.

In recent years, exosomes have been identified as both biomarkers and therapeutic agents with evidence to suggest that they exert protective effects by transferring their contents to rescue injured neighbouring cells by regulating apoptosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and angiogenesis. A therapeutic source of exosomes for the treatment of cardiovascular disease has yet to be identified. To address this, we will isolate and screen iPSC-derived exosomes in an attempt to identify a source of exosomes capable of mediating cardiac repair. 

Freshly isolated c-kitpos (green) cardiac progenitor cells showing age-associated expression of the senescence marker, p16INK4a (red), nuclei (blue).Freshly isolated c-kitpos (green) cardiac progenitor cells showing age-associated expression of the senescence marker, p16INK4a (red), nuclei (blue).

Memberships / Awards

  • Young Investigator Award for best poster presentation at the Biomedical Basis of Elite Performance - Nottingham, UK (March 2016)
  • Young Investigator Award for best oral presentation at the 50th International Congress of European Society for Surgical Research - Liverpool, UK (June 2015) 
  • Oral Presentation Award at the Alternative Muscle Club Meeting - London, UK (July 2016) 
  • 6th Annual Alliance for Healthy Aging Conference Travel Award - Newcastle UK (October 2015)

Key Publications


Internal: Prof Ken Suzuki, Prof Andrew Tinker, Prof Mauro Perretti

External: Mr Wael Awad (Barts NHS Trust), Dr Georgina Ellison (King’s College London, UK), Prof Sian Harding (Imperial College London), Dr Chibeza Agley (Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, UK)