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The William Harvey Research Institute - Barts and The London

Research in Focus

Mihai-Nicolae Podaru, PhD student (Microvascular Research)

December 2018

Please can you introduce yourself? 

My name is Mihai-Nicolae Podaru and I am a final year PhD student in the Centre of Microvascular Research. I am originally from Galati (Romania) and I have completed a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Aberdeen before moving to London where I was awarded a college funded four year MRes/PhD in Cardiovascular Science at the WHRI. Here I have already obtained the MRes degree in Inflammation: Cellular and Vascular Aspects.

What are your main research interests?

My research interests are mainly focused on cardiovascular diseases that are a major healthcare burden and are affecting a very high number of people worldwide. This aspect, combined with my long lasting passion for cardiovascular physiology made me join Professor Ken Suzuki’s lab at the WHRI where we are aiming to develop a novel cell-based therapy to stop or delay the progression of myocardial infarction to heart failure.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on the usage of M2-like (pro-reparative, anti-inflammatory) macrophages as a novel cell source for transplantation after myocardial infarction. I have shown that transplantation of M2-like macrophages into the border zone of the infarcted myocardium opposes the accentuated cardiac function decline and attenuates the adverse cardiac remodelling, two of the hallmarks of progression towards heart failure. I am now trying to elucidate the exact mechanisms responsible for these positive effects that I have already observed. 

My dream is that a novel therapeutic approach would improve both the life quality and expectancy of millions of people worldwide.

What inspires you to carry out your research?

During my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to work with patients that were recovering from myocardial infarction and I was deeply impressed by how much the progression of this condition to heart failure is affecting their quality of life. These patients have real difficulties to carry out ordinary tasks without feeling breathless or tired. My dream is that a novel therapeutic approach would improve both the life quality and expectancy of millions of people worldwide that suffer from this type of cardiovascular disease. I would like to leave a mark on the world through my career in medical research.

What are some of the biggest challenges to carrying out your research?

As a PhD student, I think that one of the biggest challenges was my lack of experience at the beginning of my research. I have learnt so much in the past three years and it all now translates into improved decision making, experimental planning, independent problem-solving ability and the list could probably continue. While I realise that this was natural, it definitely challenged me and brought out the best in me. 

Also, I believe it is quite difficult to obtain clinical samples in order to confirm some of my findings in human cells.

What advice would you give to a researcher starting out in your field?

“Be like water”. Adapt yourself to any situation or problem that you encounter in your research. Trust your results, be open to new ideas, absorb any kind of information and use every opportunity to develop yourself. Never give up when all your experiments are going wrong because only through perseverance you will be able to achieve your target. At the end of the day, the feeling you have when you achieve your goals is priceless!