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Research Fellows Directory

Pawel Swietach

Dr Pawel Swietach

Research Fellow


University of Oxford

Research summary

Our research focusses on how small ions, such as H+ and Ca2+, regulate cellular functions and, reciprocally, how cells maintain and manage these signals. Aberrant signalling is a major cause of disease, but is challenging to investigate because it requires an integrative experimental approach taking careful consideration of the appropriate cellular conditions, a means of manipulating relevant parameters independently, suitable measurement systems for quantifying outputs, and a mathematical framework for analysing, interpreting and simulating experimental data. By exploring how molecular signals affect biological processes, it is possible to understand the fundamental physiology of disease, which can lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment.

Our group specialises in studies of cellular physiology using fluorescence imaging (to trace and measure biologically-important molecules), complemented by molecular biology (to manipulate proteins that participate in signalling). By investigating biological phenomena with this more direct and functional approach, we are able to gain a better understanding of the complex signalling pathways that sustain life, and also identify the factors that can disturb the fine balance. Our current area of focus is regulation of cell function by protons (H+ ions, i.e. acidity). Virtually all biological processes are exquisitely sensitive to these ions and a number of key processes, such as respiration, produce vast quantities of acid that would disturb the acid/base balance, if not carefully regulated. Acidity is therefore a key link between metabolism and signalling. We study H+ signals in two metabolically active cell-types – cancer cells and heart myocytes – in which pH plays an important role in health and disease. Through our commitment to basic science research, we hope to understand disease mechanisms better and identify novel targets for treatment.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

How tissues remove acid: imaging spatial pH regulation in 3-D

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2013 - Sep 2017

Value: £297,383.64

How tissues remove acid: imaging spatial pH regulation in 3-D tumours

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2008 - Sep 2013

Value: £514,616

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