UCL Division of Biosciences


Svetlana Mastitskaya awarded a BHF Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellowship

4 August 2021

Dr Svetlana Mastitskaya has been awarded a BHF Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellowship to work on cardiac capillary pericytes with Prof David Attwell in NPP.

svetlana mastitskaya

Svetlana is a cardiovascular neuroscientist. Her research interests include neural mechanisms of cardioprotection, functional interactions between the brain, the heart and the gut, and how these interactions are coordinated by the vagus nerve. She joined NPP in 2014 as a postdoc in Prof Andrew Ramage’s lab to study the mechanisms of autonomic reflex control by neuronal circuits of the brainstem. She then received a Marie Curie Fellowship and worked on neural mechanisms of cardioprotection with Prof Alex Gourine.


In collaboration with David Attwell, Svetlana has demonstrated the crucial role cardiac pericytes play in ischaemia-induced no-reflow following coronary artery block. Her work is now funded by the BHF to further study how pericytes regulate coronary blood flow in health and disease.


Pericytes are multifunctional contractile cells wrapped around coronary capillaries that are critically important for regulation of the microcirculation. They constrict and dilate capillaries in response to neurotransmitters, vasoactive and metabolism-related molecules. Importantly, after myocardial ischaemia pericytes mediate no-reflow, i.e. a failure to reperfuse capillaries even after the upstream culprit artery is unblocked. Pericytes are also the main cardiac cell type expressing ACE2, the receptor for the virus causing COVID-19. Thus, pericyte dysfunction could be responsible for the deleterious effects of COVID-19 on the heart. Svetlana’s work will advance our understanding of the physiological control of coronary blood flow, and may offer therapeutic strategies for preventing deleterious effects of ischaemia and COVID-19 on the heart.