Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Professor Pawel Swietach

Pawel Swietach

Handa Fellow and Tutor in Physiology, Associate Professor (UL) in Cardiovascular Physiology


I am fascinated by how a collection of various chemical components in a cell can produce biological life under the constraints of physical laws.  This is why I am a physiologist. In this ‘post-genomic era’, there is a timely need to understand how biological functions emerge from genes. This is the remit of physiology, my research niche.

My laboratory at the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics ( investigates signalling by small molecules in the heart and in cancer, with a particular focus on hydrogen ions, which determine pH.  Our ambition is to understand how cells handle their acidic products and how, in turn, acid/base chemistry affects biology.

Our work is funded by the European Union and British Heart Foundation, as well by other UK charities.

I was born in Warsaw, Poland, and came to Oxford in 1998 to study Physiological Sciences (a degree which has now been replaced with Biomedical Sciences, on offer at Corpus). After graduating, I studied for a doctorate (2001-2004) in Oxford. My thesis was on pH regulation in the heart, with a particular emphasis on the molecules that determine the spatial distribution of hydrogen ions.

I received further research training at Oxford and in Salt Lake City (USA). During this period, I studied how pH influences calcium signalling and electrical currents in heart cells.

In 2008, I was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship to study pH regulation in 3-D tissue-like structures, with particular emphasis on cancer physiology. This work is done in collaboration with Professor Adrian L Harris in Oxford.

In 2017, I began two research programmes: one on the role of acid handling and sensing in cancer, with a focus on colorectal cancer, and the other on how acid-base balance is altered in failing hearts.

I hold a joint appointment between the University, as an associate professor in DPAG, and Corpus Christi, as the Handa Fellow.  

Research and recent publications

Key current research projects:

- How cancer cells survive metabolism: acid handling and signalling;

- The symbiosis between stromal cells and cancer cells in colorectal tumours;

- Remodelling of pH control mechanisms in maladaptive hypertrophy and heart failure;

- Role of nuclear pH in regulating gene expression in cardiac myocytes in health and disease;

- Effect of propionic acidosis on cardiac physiology;

- The effect of geometry and hemoglobin density on gas transport by normal and disease red blood cells.

- Seeking markers for hemolytic anaemia in new born

For more information including recent publications, see

College teaching

My appointment at College involves teaching and administrative duties for the preclinical Medicine course. I tutor students in Year 1 (Physiology and Pharmacology) and Year 2 (Integrative Physiology) for their First Bachelor of Medicine (BM) examination. I also provide teaching for Final Honours Schools (3rd year) in topics related to cellular physiology. I am also involved in supervising undergraduate dissertation projects.


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