Scottish Cardiovascular Forum Annual Meeting – Aberdeen Feb 2023

Congratulations to Katie Abraham on winning a poster prize at SCF 2023. Katie presented a poster titled “Does Mitsugumin 23 play a role in doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity”. Katie was a recipient of a Physiological Springboard summer studentship to carry out a summer project in the Pitt lab in 2022. This was Katie’s first conference and she certainly did it in style.

The Pitt lab would like to thank Dr Fiona Murray University of Aberdeen for organising such an exciting meeting focused on early career researchers.

Samantha Pitt has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

Samantha Pitt has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB).

The Royal Society of Biology works to facilitate the promotion of new discoveries in biological science for national and international benefit, and to engage the wider public with the work of the Society.

For election as a Fellow an individual needs to have made a prominent contribution to the advancement of the biological sciences and gained no less than five years’ experience in a position of senior responsibility.

BHF Project Grant Awarded to Samantha Pitt: Cellular zinc is at the heart of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium leak in cardiac muscle

Dr Samantha Pitt has just been awarded a 3 year BHF project grant to investigate how zinc regulates diastolic calcium leak to drive cardiac dysfunction. This award will enable the talented Amy Dorward to continue her work in this area as a PDRA. The project will use a combination of electrophysiology, molecular biology and cutting-edge microscopy techniques (supervised by Dr Juan Varela, School of Biology) to understand the intrinsic relationship between cardiac cellular Zn2+ and Ca2+-dynamics in the failing heart.

We would like to thank the BHF for their continued support of our research.


Samantha Pitt has been elected as President-Elect for the International Society for Zinc Biology

Dr Samantha Pitt has been elected as President-Elect for the International Society for Zinc Biology (ISZB). The ISZB brings together scientists from around the world in a diversity of fields with a common interest in the structural, biochemical, genetic and physiological aspects of zinc biology. She will serve in this position for 2 years before moving to the role of President of the society in 2023.

UKRI-BBSRC Grant Awarded to Samantha Pitt – High-resolution structure, function and anti-viral inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 E protein ion channel

Dr Samantha Pitt and partners from University of Dundee (Prof Ulrich Zachariae) and Trinity College Dublin (Prof Martin Caffrey), have recently been awarded a UKRI-BBSRC grant to address problems related to COVID-19. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, the team will use structure-based drug design to accelerate the discovery of drugs to target SARS-CoV2 by enabling focused, rational approaches to design and repurposing. The project aims to i) solve high-resolution crystal-structures of CoV2E (ii) apply computational electrophysiology and in silico screens including cheminformatics/machine learning approaches to identify CoV2E inhibitors from libraries of commercially available and repurposing drugs, and (iii) perform lead validation and further development of inhibitors by electrophysiology and crystallography.



Dr Samantha Pitt becomes a commitee member of the Scottish Cardiovascular Forum

Dr Samantha Pitt has been invited to become a committee member of the Scottish Cardiovascular Forum to represent the University of St Andrews. The Scottish Cardiovascular Forum was launched in October 1997, with the aim of fostering integration, encouraging collaboration and assisting in the dissemination of information among basic science and clinical cardiovascular researchers in Scotland and further afield.

Our paper in Nature Photonics is now available – Monitoring contractility in cardiac tissue with cellular resolution using biointergrated microlasers

Our latest collaborative work on microlasers as versatile contractility sensors in the heart is out.

Monitoring contractility in cardiac tissue with cellular resolution using biointegrated microlasers” by Marcel Schubert, Lewis Woolfson, Isla R M Barnard, Amy M Dorward, Becky Casement, Andrew Morton, Gavin B Robertson, Paul L Appleton, Gareth B Miles, Carl S Tucker, Samantha J Pitt and Malte C Gather is published in Nature Photonics and available online.

In this work we show that implanted microlasers can scan heart tissue from inside cells.  Tiny lasers were placed inside the heart where they acted as microscopic probes. With every beat of the heart, the colour of light that these lasers emit changed by a small but clearly detectable amount, thus precisely encoding the contractions of the heart cells over time.

Although the research is still in its early days, the present study proves that lasers can resolve fast dynamic processes inside individual live cells and whole hearts.

Our University press release can be found here

Our paper in Nature Communications is now available – Allosteric activation of an ion channel triggered by modification of mechanosensitive nano-pockets

Here we detail a new technique to trick bacteria into revealing hundreds of holes in their cell walls, opening the door for drugs that destroy bacterial cells. This interdisciplinary work shows for first time that MscL channels are kept closed by membrane lipids – specifically lipid chains- which are located within nano-pockets highly sensitive to tension, pressure and force. When access of these lipids is disrupted by molecular nano-guards engineered at the entrance of the nano-pockets, the channel mechanically responds and opens its pore. Targeting these pores may pave the way for new drugs that can destroy bacterial cells and could make current antibiotics more effective or allow for the development of antibiotic-free drugs that can use these openings.

Here is a link to our paper

International Society for Zinc Biology 2019 Meeting & Kyoto Lab Visit

3rd year BHF-funded PhD student Amy Dorward (Pitt lab) and Dr Gavin Robertson (PDRA; Pitt lab) visited Prof Hiroshi Takeshima’s lab at the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Science, Kyoto University, Japan between 9th August – 14th September 2019. During this time both Amy and Gavin carried out some exciting new experiments, which will contribute to an upcoming publication.

Whilst in Kyoto, Amy, Gavin and Dr Samantha Pitt attended the International Society for Zinc Biology (ISZB) 2019 conference. They would like to thank the organisers for an excellent meeting. Samantha gave an invited talk entitled “Intracellular Calcium and Zinc Dynamics are Intrinsically Coupled”. Amy and Gavin both presented posters. Gavin was awarded a Metallomics poster prize.

Amy was awarded travel grants by Russell Trust, Biochemical Society, British Society for Cell Biology (BSCB) and the School of Medicine. Gavin obtained funding from BSCB and the Physiological Society.