Dr. Pika Miklavc
School of Science, Engineering and Environment
Lecturer in Human Physiology
I studied Biology on University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and continued there as a PhD student in the Department of Biology. During my graduate studies I investigated olfactory coding in fish and obtained my PhD in 2005. I then became interested in cellular mechanisms of secretion and moved to Ulm University in Germany as a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Commission in the Research Training Network Pulmonet. There I explored different stages in secretion of lung surfactant, using high-resolution microscopy techniques.
After conclusion of the Pulmonet programme I continued working in the Medical School of the Ulm University as university assistant in the Institute of General Physiology. In 2013 I acquired Margarete von Wrangell Fellowship from the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts of the Land Baden-Württemberg. With help of this fellowship I obtained a Habilitation in Physiology, which is a German post-doctoral qualification for teaching in Higher Education. In 2016 I was appointed as Lecturer in Human Physiology on University of Salford.
Areas of research
Cell Biology, Lung Physiology, Secretion, Exocytosis, Intracellular Trafficking
My teaching focuses on Physiology and Pathophysiology for students in Biomedicine and Biology Programmes. I also contribute to Clinical Immunology, Pharmacology and various taught MSc modules. I deliver practical courses on histology and microscopy and I am a module leader for Level 4 Biological Skills and Study Skills modules. I participate in skills modules across all levels and supervise final year projects.
My previous teaching experience includes teaching Physiology to students of Medicine, Dental Medicine and Molecular Medicine.
My research focuses on cell biology of secretion. One example are cellular mechanisms of surfactant secretion in lung alveoli and their disruption in pulmonary disease. This research investigates the molecular basis of surfactant secretion in lung alveoli and dysfunctional surfactant secretion in pulmonary disease. Surfactant is a hydrophobic substance that enables breathing and is secreted from alveolar type II cells into alveolar lumen via exocytosis. Exocytosis is an intracellular trafficking process where a secretory vesicle undergoes fusion with the plasma membrane to release vesicle contents form the cell. Surfactant deficiency can cause infant respiratory distress syndrome and pulmonary fibrosis; however, the molecular mechanisms of surfactant secretion in health and disease are not well known. Surfactant secretion is investigated using cell culture of lung epithelial cell lines and live cell fluorescence microscopy.
The second example are mechanisms and function of extracellular vesicle (EV) and miRNA secretion. This research compares the secretion of EVs and miRNA in cell models of lung and brain cancer by using fluorescent labelling of EVs in living cells. EVs are small extracellular vesicles that play a role in cell-cell communication. Communication between cells is essential for normal function of tissues and organs in multicellular organisms and chemical messengers such as hormones, transmitters, growth factors and cytokines have been researched in considerable detail. However, recent studies show that cells can also communicate though EVs. EVs are continuously released from cells and contain genetic material, proteins and lipids that can influence gene expression and induce phenotypic changes in recipient cells. The mechanisms of EV secretion are not yet clear and are the focus of this project. MiRNAs on the other hand are small non-coding RNA which usually downregulate the expression of their target mRNAs. The role of miRNA in cancer has been well documented and it was proposed that secreted extracellular miRNA may function in a manner similar to hormones. Secreted miRNAs can be free or enclosed in exosomes; however, the triggers of miRNA secretion are poorly understood.
- PhD on University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Title of the thesis: Behavioural discrimination of amino acids in zebrafish (Danio rerio). 2005.
- Habilitation on Ulm University, Germany. Title of the thesis: Regulation of hemifusion and post-fusion phase of exocytosis in alveolar type II cells. 2015.
- The Physiological Society