Faculty of Biological Sciences

Prof Ed White

BSc, Aberystwyth; PhD, Reading; PGCE, Exeter.
Professor in Cardiac Physiology
School of Biomedical Sciences

Background: BSc Zoology, University of Wales, Aberystwyth: PhD Zoology, Reading University: PGCE Biology and Outdoor Education, Exeter University: Post-Doc., Oxford University: Lecturer, Université de Tours, France: Lloyds of London and Wellcome Trust Fellow, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader: University of Leeds. Currently, visiting Professor, L'Instut de Rhythmologie et Modélisation Cardiaque, Université de Bordeaux, France

Contact:  Garstang 7.53a, +44(0) 113 34 34248, email address for  

You can read more about Prof White's interests here:

Research Interests

Mechanical stimulation of the heart

Mechanical stimulation of the heart
Acute mechanical stimulation (e.g. stretch) affects the contractility of cardiac muscle in situations such as exercise, when diastolic ventricular volume is increased. Stretch and adrenergic stimulation are the 2 most important physiological mechanisms for increasing the strength of contraction of the heart. But stretch has also been implicated in the triggering of cardiac arrhythmias and chronic stretch provokes cardiac hypertrophy and eventually heart failure. Thus stretch may be involved in the beneficial effects of regular exercise and the cause of heart attacks, depending upon circumstances. My research group investigates the mechanisms that cause these varied effects on the contractile and electrical activity of the heart (see Fig 1).

Right heart failure
The right ventricle is structurally and functionally different from the left ventricle, it is thinner, operates at much lower pressures and has distinctive pathologies. The right ventricle is much less studied than the left. We are interested in the differences in physiology and pathology between the ventricles. We are currently using an animal model to study changes in contractile and electrical activity of the myocardium in right ventricular failure, linking these to changes in gene expression and in vivo cardiac function.

Comparative Cardiac Physiology
Vertebrate heart design varies from class to class, understanding the differences in physiology between vertebrate classes helps our thinking about mammalian physiology and pathology. In collaboration with colleagues from the University of Manchester we are investigating the cardiac physiology of fish.

Funding and international collaborations
We are funded by grants from The British Heart Foundation, The Medical Research Council and EU. We have overseas research collaborators in France (Bordeaux) and New Zealand (Auckland). The laboratory has welcomed researchers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Poland and UAE.

Available Research Techniques
In vivo: ECG in unrestrained animals by telemetry; pressure:volume relationships of the ventricles.
Isolated whole hearts: Ventricular contractility (developed pressure) and electrical activity (optical mapping, monophasic action potentials)
Single cardiac myocytes:  Myocyte contractility (cell shortening and force development); ionic membrane currents (patch clamping) and intracellular ion concentrations (fluorescence microscopy); cytoskeletal structure (immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy).
Molecular Biology: measurement of mRNA (real time RT-PCR); protein expression (Western blotting)

view movie

Figure 1: A single cardiac myocyte about 0.1 mm in length being stretched by carbon fibres. A specialist technique in our lab. is the recording of force and stretch in single cardiac myocytes (click on Figure 1 for a video demonstration of this technique). Force measurements can be combined with measurements of intracellular calcium or electrophysiology.


Current Projects

  • Changes in ion channel activity in right heart failure
  • Role of stretch in right heart failure
  • Cardiac physiology of non-mammalian vertebrates



Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Cardiac muscle

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Contractile and electrical activity in right ventricular failure
  • The role of mechanical stimulation in cardiac physiology and pathology
  • University of Leeds has an endowed PhD studentship (The Emma and Leslie Reid Studentship) in the field of heart research. Applications from self-funding 1-year MSc by research students are welcome.

See also:

Modules managed

BMSC2228 - Experimental Skills in Physiology

Modules taught

BMSC1213 - Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills 2
BMSC1215 - Life in the Extreme: Ultra Human Physiology
BMSC2228 - Experimental Skills in Physiology
BMSC3138 - Cellular Cardiology
BMSC3233/35/36 - Advanced Topics II
BMSC3301 - Research Project in Biomedical Sciences

Centre membership: The Multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Centre (MCRC)

Group Leader Prof Ed White  (Professor in Cardiac Physiology)

Mechanical stimulation of the heart 

Dr Matthew Hardy  (Teaching Fellow in Cardiovascular Sciences)

Dr Rachel Stones  (Visiting Research Fellow)

Dr Kathleen Wright  (Senior Scientific Officer in Cardiovascular Science)

Supporting laboratory research development, training and management in the department of Cardiovascular Sciences 


Richard Madeley (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE
Ruth Norman (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Emma Steer (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Harley Stevenson-Cocks (Co-supervisor) 50% FTE