£1m boost for heart attack research
Press release issued: 8 October 2004
A team of researchers at the Bristol Heart Institute have been awarded £843,000 by the British Heart Foundation for their laboratory studies into the basic biology underlying heart attacks.
A team of researchers at the Bristol Heart Institute led by Professor Andrew Newby, Dr Sarah George and Dr Mark Bond have been awarded £843,000 by the British Heart Foundation for their laboratory studies into the basic biology underlying heart attacks.
This new award brings the total support awarded to the team by the Heart Foundation to more than £1m, which will be spent on the research over the next five years.
Fatty deposits in the large arteries that carry blood to the heart are present in most middle aged and older adults. They are more likely to occur, and are more severe, in men, in smokers, and in people who have high blood pressure, take little exercise, are obese or have diabetes. Normally the fatty deposits in arteries are protected from coming into contact with the blood by a layer of cells called vascular smooth muscle cells. In addition, these cells are bound together by collagen, which maintains the strength of the artery wall.
However, if there are inadequate numbers of smooth muscle cells or if the collagen between them is broken down by digestive enzymes the protective covering layer can rupture. Once blood comes into direct contact with the fatty deposits, a blood clot forms that can completely block the artery causing a heart attack. There are more than 250,000 heart attacks every year in the UK and heart disease accounts for approximately 120,000 deaths.
Previous work from the Bristol group has already identified some of the most important signals necessary to make smooth muscle cells grow. This research programme will allow the team to get a complete picture of these regulatory pathways and test out some new ways to encourage the maintenance of a healthy smooth muscle cell layer.
The remainder of the research looks into what causes the production of the digestive enzymes. Based on this part of the research, the team hopes to develop new diagnostic tests to identify people at high risk of heart attacks and suggest new targets for drug treatments.