Targeting the right atrium using computer modelling and AI, to fix our irregularly beating hearts

PhD Project

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance and can lead to stroke and heart failure. AF is a major cause of hospitalisation worldwide. Stubborn forms of AF that cannot be reversed with conventional therapy (drugs and application of defibrillating shock) are treated by ablation in which atrial regions that drive fibrillation are isolated. In the past, ablation has mainly been limited to the left atrium. Recent studies have revealed that most patients with stubborn AF have drivers in the right atrium (RA) which are implicated in their rhythm disturbance. The mechanisms by which the RA structures drive AF are poorly understood. This impedes the development of optimal ablation treatments.

The aims of this PhD proposal are to

  1. Define the "fingerprints" of the muscle fibre bundle networks that contribute to AF in the human RA using state of the art imaging and artificial intelligence.
  2. Determine how alterations in the structure of these networks sustain AF using patient-specific computer models.
  3. Investigate the most effective ablation procedures for isolating RA fibrillation drivers using retrospective clinical studies.

This research project is funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Heart Foundation New Zealand. Successful candidates will be supported with tuition fees and tax-free stipend ($28.5K pa).

Desired skills

Ideal candidates will have a Masters' or a Bachelors' degree in Engineering/Mathematics, and basic programming skills.