Dr Karen E. Porter

Dr Karen E. Porter


I am a basic scientist with an interest in human cardiovascular cell function/dysfunction in health and disease.

With a first degree in Pharmacology from the University of Leeds and a PhD from the University of Leicester in 1995, I completed two postdoctoral positions before returning to Leeds as a Senior Research Fellow on a BHF-funded Academic Fellowship in 2001. Here I created a human cardiovascular cell laboratory as a core facility and my research was centred for several years exploring pleiotropic effects of common cardiovascular drugs, particularly statins.

I was promoted to Principal Research Fellow in 2005 and in 2008 I was awarded a Readership. My research interests are the vascular complications of Type 2 diabetes and understanding the underlying cell and molecular mechanisms.  I regularly take opportunities to work collaboratively and as a result, I have a broad network of contacts in the cardiovascular community. Locally I collaborate with clinicians and surgeons, thus embracing both basic and clinical aspects of cardiovascular research.

I currently lead a 4-year International PhD Academy in LICAMM, designed particularly for postgraduate students with little or no previous research experience. As a female scientist in a senior academic position, I enjoy being a role model and mentor for junior colleagues. I have been a member of the British Society for Cardiovascular Research since 1995, a committee member since 2014 and am currently Chair for a 3-year period.


  • Programme Lead (International PhD Academy, LICAMM)
  • Lead Postgraduate Tutor (LICAMM)

Research interests

My research aims to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that underlie smooth muscle cell dysfunction in pathological conditions such as abdominal aortic anuerysm and vein bypass graft failure, in order to discover novel therapeutic targets. My projects utilise primary cultured human cells from multiple patients and this led us to the discovery of aberrant vascular phenotypes, specifically in diabetic patients, that are driven by epigenetic mechanisms. Given the worldwide epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and its attendant cardiovascular risk, new therapies for prevention and treatment are urgently required.

Recent funded projects:

2017-20. Vascular smooth muscle cell location, function and phenotype in murine models of abdominal aortic aneurysm (BHF). Bailey, Cubbon, Porter, Scott, Yuldasheva, Griffin, Wheatcroft, Beech, Baxter.                                                                 

2017-18. Degradation of vascular devices (de-vasc): a combined engineering and biological approach (EPSRC). Bryant & Porter.                                                                                           

2015-18. Vascular smooth muscle cell dysfunction and Type 2 diabetes: Role of DNA damage and miR-145 (Diabetes UK). Porter & Turner.                                    

2015-17. Exploring the links between metallic cardiovascular device degradation and local biological functionality (Wellcome Trust). Bryant & Porter.                                    

2015-18. Improved glycaemic response and attenuated post-prandial sugar-induced endothelial dysfunction by  polyphenol-rich foods. (BBSRC-DRINC). Williamson, Porter, Kearney.  

2013-15. Investigating molecular and epigenetic control of metabolic memory in vascular cells from Type 2 diabetes patients. (Dunhill Medical Trust). Porter, Wood, Turner.


  • PhD Vascular Biology of Human Vein Graft Failure
  • BSc Pharmacology

Professional memberships

  • British Society for Cardiovascular Research (Chair, 2018-20)
  • British Atherosclerosis Society
  • British Society for Cell Biology
  • The Biochemical Society
  • European Vascular Biology Organisation
  • ESC Working Group on Atherosclerosis and Vascular Biology

Student education

I am Programme Lead of the 4-year International PhD Academy. For full details please see our website.

I also contribute teaching to year 1 MBChB undergraduate Medicine, Intercalated BSc in Cardiovascular Medicine, MSc in Cardiovascular Medical Imaging

Personal Tutor (Years 1 & 2 MBChB students)

Lead Postgraduate Tutor (LICAMM)

Research groups and institutes

  • Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine
  • Specialist Science Education

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>