Vascular Physiology Research Group

Vascular Physiology​ Research Group

​The Vascular Physiology Research Group explores how vascular haemodynamics impact on cardiac and microvascular function throughout the ageing process and with disease progression (e.g. Hypertension, Diabetes and Respiratory Disease). We work as part of Cardiff Metropolitan University's Health and Wellbeing strategy to provide evidence and awareness of cardiovascular risk to both staff and students. As part of our ongoing research programme, we lead the Cardiff collaborative division of the vascular ageing population based study, the Anglo-Cardiff Collaborative Trial (ACCT; in collaboration with the University of Cambridge), and the ARCADE trial which investigates cardiovascular risk in Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease. We have recently secured a Horizon 2020 Skłodowska Curie Global Fellowship grant in collaboration with Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital to investigate the vascular haemodynamics associated with Heart Failure patients implanted with Left Ventricular Assist Devices (HIT-LVAD trial). We are consistently engaging with medical device companies and various charities highlighting the importance of their translational research and providing the cardiovascular health awareness to the local population and patient groups.

Research Areas

Haemodynamics Informing the Treatment of LVAD Patients

Advanced heart failure (HF) is a growing health problem in the European Union. Consequently, a growing number of (HF) patients now depend on state-of-the-art continuous flow Left Ventricular Assist Devices (cf-LVAD) as a bridge to transplant or as a means of destination therapy. Since the introduction and usage of cf-LVADs rather than traditional pulsatile LVADs, survival rates have significantly improved. However, an increased number of side effects, including stroke and microvascular bleeding have been reported. Lack of pulsatile pressure and flow throughout the system has been suggested as a causative mechanism for these side effects however, there are currently no data on macro/micro haemodynamics in these patients.

Our objective therefore is to provide 5 work packages to understand the consequences of decreased pulsatile blood pressure and flow haemodynamics in cf-LVAD patients compared to HF patients and age-matched controls.

Heamodynamics LVAD 

The Anglo-Cardiff Collaborative Trial (ACCT)

Cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death worldwide, with myocardial infarction and stroke accounting for over 20% of all deaths. As part of the Anglo-Cardiff Collaborative Trial (ACCT) in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, we now know that arterial stiffness is an independent predictor of heart attack and stroke. There is a general consensus that arterial stiffening  in the Western population is an inevitable consequence of growing old and until relatively recently, 'hardening of the arteries' was recorded on death certificates. However, stiffening of the arteries is not inevitable and we are following the time course of arterial stiffness in a large population-based cohort in order to help identify the causes of this problem. This study aims to identify potential new targets for drug treatment to reverse or slow down arterial stiffening, which should then lead to major reductions in the incidence of diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

Assessment of Risk in Chronic Airways Disease Evaluation (ARCADE)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a multisystem disease. In addition to respiratory diseases, the causes and development of complications such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass and function are not well understood. The ARCADE study commenced in 2011 at Cardiff University to investigate these problems, and with the help of the British Lung Foundation, GP's and respiratory consultants, over 500 volunteers with COPD and 150 individuals without lung problems have been recruited. The ARCADE cohort has been set at baseline visit and a 2 year follow-up visit, where in-depth cardiovascular and respiratory measurements are assessed. The study has now transferred to Cardiff Metropolitan University, where a further 5 year follow-up of these volunteers will take place.

Ventricular-Vascular Interactions and Ageing

The heart and vasculature operate as an integrated and dynamic system in order to satisfy the circulatory demands of the body. The main focus of this research is how this heart-vasculature interaction changes with age and disease. In particular, how left ventricular mechanics (which describe the twisting, untwisting and deformation of the left ventricle as it contracts and relaxes) are affected by age- and disease-related changes to arterial haemodynamics and stiffness. We are currently exploring these relationships in younger and middle-aged healthy adults via data collected from Cardiff Metropolitan University staff and student health MOT's, and in patients with hypertension in collaboration with clinical colleagues and University Hospital Llandough, Cardiff.

Ventricular-Vascular Interactions 

Staff and Student Cardiovascular Health MOT's

The research group provides "Health MOT's" (assessment of office and 24 hour blood pressure, arterial stiffness, respiratory function, cardiac function together with retinal, cerebral and renal blood flow, and blood samples assessing cholesterol and glucose) to Cardiff Metropolitan staff and students as part of our research programme and to provide cardiovascular risk awareness. This easily administered template of evaluating and investigating individuals or institutions' "health" has previously been undertaken and can be provided to local company workforces or clients.

These MOT's are performed in collaboration with the University's Health and Wellbeing Strategy, co-ordinated through Laura Watkeys and Chris Deacy and the British Heart Foundation. In 2016, our health MOT's not only raised cardiovascular awareness, but also provided data towards understanding the relationships between aortic blood pressure and cardiac function in a student population.

Cardiovascular Health MOTs 

Macro-microvascular haemodynamics and target organ damage

The group are currently investigating the interactions between large artery stiffness, central haemodynamics and peripheral organ flow pulsatility (in the eye, brain and kidney). This study investigates these relationships and interactions across different age ranges, in hypertensive patients and during pharmacological interventions. Understanding the complex interaction between the heart, large arteries and the flow being transmitted into the periphery enables the focused treatment and management of risk in ageing and patient populations.

Macro-microvascular haemodynamics 


Group Members

Dr Barry McDonnell​Dr Eric StöhrProfessor John Cockcroft
Reader in
Cardiovascular Physiology
Lecturer in Cardiac
 Physiology and Health,
 Cardiff School of Sport 
Visiting Professor,
Cardiff School of Sport 


Miss Laura Watkeys
Post-doctoral Research Associate
Research and Laboratory Co-ordinator
​Mrs Maggie Munnery,
Clinical Research Fellow and Nurse


Mr Stuart Ennis
Clinical Senior Lecturer,
Cardiff University
Mr Stuart Ennis,
Academic Associate (PhD)
Mrs Mahfoudha Al Shezawi,
Academic Associate (PhD)




Dr Richard Webb, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences 

Professor Jorge Erusalimsky, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences 

Dr Lee Butcher, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences 

Professor Rob Shave,  Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences



Dr Nicola Gale, Cardiff University

Dr Zaheer Yousef, Cardiff and Vale NHS

Professor Ian Wilkinson, University of Cambridge

Dr Carmel McEniery, University of Cambridge 

Dr Yasmin, University of Cambridge 

Dr Maki-Petja, University of Cambridge 

Professor Alberto Avolio, MacQuarie University

Dr Mark Butlin, MacQuarie University

Dr Paolo Colombo, Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Dr Francesco Castagna, Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Dr James Pearson, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs



Our research is funded by the following organisations:

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
European Commission
The Strategic Insight Programme
Rhaglen Cyd-ddealltwriaeth Strategol



​Cardiff Metropolitan University and Santander Accelerator Funds ​KESS Funding Columbia University, New York


Key Publications

Hickson SS., Nichols WW., Yasmin, McDonnell BJ., Cockroft JR., Wilkinson IB., McEniery CM. Influence of the central-to-peripheral arterial stiffness gradient on the timing and amplitude of wave reflections. Hypertension Research. 2016 Oct; 39 (10): 723-9.

Middlemiss JE., Miles KL., McDonnell BJ., Yasmin, Maki-Petaja KM., Cockcroft JR., Wilkinson IB., McEniery CM; Enigma study investigators. Mechanisms underlying elevated SBP differ with adiposity in young adults: the Enigma study. Journal of Hypertension. 2016 Feb; 34 (2): 290-7.

van Mil AC., Pearson J., Drane AL., Cockcroft JR., McDonnell BJ., Stöhr EJ. Interaction between left ventricular twist mechanics and arterial haemodynamics during localised, non-metabolic hyperaemia with and without blood flow restriction. Experimental Physiology. 2016 Apr; 101 (4): 509-20.

McDonnell BJ., Pearson J., Cockcroft JR. Reflections on vascular ageing and microvascular pulsatility. Journal of Hypertension. 2014 Sep; 32 (9): 1907-8.

Thompson JE., Webb R., Hewlett P., Llewellyn D., McDonnell BJ. Matrix metalloproteinase-9 and augmentation index are reduced within an 8-week green-exercise walking programme. Journal of Hypertension. 2013 Oct; 2 (4): 127-133.

McDonnell BJ., Maki-Petaja KM., Munnery M., Yasmin, Wilkinson IB., Cockcroft JR., McEniery CM. Habitual exercise and blood pressure: age dependency and underlying mechanisms. American Journal of Hypertension. 2013 Mar; 26 (3): 334-41.