Improving the diagnosis and treatment of heart-failure: the role of myocardial fibrosis

Dr Sanjay Prasad, Royal Brompton Hospital

Heart failure is one of the leading causes of early death globally. The scale of the problem will increase dramatically over the next 20-30 years as patients become older. Current treatments are good but focus mainly on patients that have developed the condition already, rather than trying to prevent it. The aim of Dr Prasad’s work is to diagnose heart failure and offer treatment at a much earlier stage when patients are at risk, rather than when they have major symptoms. To do this the researchers will use some of the most advanced imaging available to look for very fine small amounts of scarring in the heart that can be treated before heart function deteriorates. This will be complemented by state of the art genetics in the hope of developing simple blood tests that could be used in clinics throughout the world.

Infrastructure for multi-scale data analysis of arrhythmic mechanisms in human cardiac tissue

Professor Sian Harding & Dr Jennifer Simonotto

Heart failure is a growing problem across the world, for many reasons including improved recovery from heart attacks, or chemotherapy-treated cancer, which can both damage to the heart muscle. In the UK, 700,000 people are living with heart failure; these people have an approximately 50% death rate after 2 years. This is due to disturbances in the heart rhythm (arrhythmia), where the impulses that travel across the heart are disrupted, leading to sudden death. Research led by Prof Sian Harding is focussed on investigating the mechanisms of heart failure, and the development of better, more targeted treatments. Using human samples, and the latest imaging technologies, it is now possible to track changes in heart rhythm that arise in a single cell, and study how they build up to trigger arrhythmias on a larger scale. In this project, the researchers will access samples taken from patients that are having heart surgery. By combining patient data, genetic information and studying the mechanisms of their arrhythmia, the researchers aim to generate better understanding of the processes involved, and help in the development of anti-arrhythmia strategies.  This research also has significant potential to attract further funding due to the potential of using human tissue to replace animals in medical research.

Development of a novel research approach to understand how IgE B cells cause asthma

Dr Hannah Gould, King’s College London

Asthma is one of the most common allergic disorders, affecting over 330 million people worldwide and 5.4 million people in the UK. Current treatments for asthma focus on symptom relief rather than the underlying cause. This means that it is difficult to distinguish between different subtypes of asthma and causes problems for clinicians when deciding the most appropriate treatment. Dr Gould’s team are focusing on a type of immune cell (B-cells) and the antibodies that are involved in the disease process of asthma. They will study these with the overall aim of understanding more about the disease mechanisms and enabling biomarker discovery to allow patient stratification.

Identification of novel pathways that promote lung scarring in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Prof Donna Davies, University of Southampton

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis occurs when abnormal scar tissue forms throughout the lungs, causing patients to become progressively more breathless. There are only two treatments for the disease, but they only slow the progression rather than providing a cure, and often have severe side effects. In this study the researchers will investigate the role of the WISP-1 protein, a molecule which has been implicated in abnormal wound healing to examine if it is significant in the development of pulmonary scarring.

Tyrosine kinase inhibitor cardiotoxicity and cardiac stem cells

Dr Andrew Smith, University of Leeds

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are a class of drugs frequently used to treat cancer. Although they are very effective at killing cancer cells, they are associated with cardiac inflammation and heart failure, resulting in significant disability and even death.  The reason for this is unknown, but it may be due to damaging effects of the drugs on stem cells in the heart, which generate new heart cells. In this study, the researchers will examine the effect of tyrosine kinase inhibitors on cardiac stem cells, to try to understand more about what goes wrong.

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