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Ewan Fowler

Dr Ewan Fowler

Research Fellow

School of Biosciences

+44 29208 74105
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am fascinated by the dynamic interplay between electrical activation, causing an increase then decrease in intracellular calcium, and the rise and fall of tension (excitation-contraction coupling) in the heart every time it beats. This pattern must be repeated in a coordinated manner across billions of electrically connected cells (cardiomyocytes) almost simultaneously for the heart to perform its job of pumping blood around the body effectively. When this coordinated pattern of electrical activity and calcium cycling goes wrong (at the molecular, cellular and whole heart level), the result can be catastrophic by initiating uncontrolled electrical activity (fibrillation) leading to sudden death. In particular, my work is investigating the link between abnormal calcium handling and spontaneous electrical activity in different pathological conditions such as heart failure and inherited disease.   In the Cellular Cardiology Research Group we employ a broad range of techniques to address these questions, ranging from molecular biology, confocal calcium imaging and electrophysiology of cardiomyocytes, whole organ preparations, in vivo studies and in silico computer modelling.












Heart contraction is controlled by calcium channels (called ryanodine receptors, RYR2) that open and close, allowing calcium levels in heart muscle cells to rise and fall, and the heart to contract and relax. Pathological heart conditions, such as heart failure and an inherited syndrome called CPVT, cause RYR2 to become unstable ("leaky"). Exercise and emotional stress increase Ca2+ leak and can provoke potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm. My work aims to develop new ways to make RYR2 less leaky using recombinant proteins as "model drugs" and establish whether existing drugs could be repurposed for alternate uses.


I studied Human Physiology & Sport Science as an undergraduate at the University of Glasgow, followed by an MRes and PhD both in the laboratory of Prof Ed White at the University of Leeds. My work at that time focused on the role of energy systems in the failing right ventricle resulting from pulmonary arterial hypertension. I spent part of my PhD at the VU, Amsterdam, learning to perform intact myocyte stretch and contractility measurements, including physiological workloops (to simulate the in vivo cardiac pressure/volume cycle) in failing heart cells. I was a postdoctoral Research Associate in the lab of Prof Mark Cannell, University of Bristol, where I received much of my training in cardiac Ca2+ signalling and electrophysiology. I am currently funded by a 5-year British Heart Foundation Research Fellowship investigating the link between pathological "late Ca2+ sparks" and arrhythmias.

Committees and reviewing

Reviewing Editor, Frontiers in Physiology

Journal reviewer for a variety of scientific publications


I am always interested in supervising PhDs in the areas of:

  • Cardiac pathophysiology
  • Calcium imaging
  • Electrophysiology

Current supervision

Gemma Toerien-Howie

Gemma Toerien-Howie

Research student