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Over a £million for heart research

Press release issued: 12 March 2008

Scientists in Bristol have been awarded more than a million pounds by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as part of a £6 million boost for heart research in the UK.

Scientists in Bristol have been awarded more than a million pounds by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as part of a £6 million boost for heart research in the UK.

Among those winning part of the prestigious grants are researchers from the University of Bristol.

The charity’s special grants are made every two months to fund research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, the UK’s biggest killer. In 2007 there were 218 research grants awarded, totaling over £54 million.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “This important research by scientists in will help us understand how our hearts work, what can go wrong and how we can go about diagnosing and treating heart problems. It will help save lives and improve heart patients’ quality of life in the UK and across the rest of the world.

“We would like to thank everyone who has generously given their time and money to fund this vital work because without donations from the public, we would not be able to continue with this necessary research.”

The grants announced to research institutions in Bristol today are:


Grant recipient

Research institution

Grant amount

What the project will aim to achieve

Dr A F James & Professor C H Orchard


University of Bristol




In the UK over a third of men and a quarter of women have high blood pressure or are receiving treatment for the condition. These people are at increased risk of having an abnormal heart rhythm, which can affect their quality of life and may be life-threatening. This research duo from the University of Bristol will investigate the link between high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythm by looking in particular at how high blood pressure may affect the behaviour of calcium in the heart. Their findings may lead to new ways to prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythm in patients who are at risk of this condition.



Prof AW Poole


University of Bristol




Small blood cells called platelets help to limit blood loss after injury by clumping together to form a plug that stops excess bleeding. However, by stopping blood flow platelets can also have a dangerous effect on the body. For instance, a blockage of blood flow to the heart can lead to a heart attack. Professor Alastair Poole from the University of Bristol will investigate an important regulatory protein called PKD recently described in platelets. Greater knowledge of PKD’s behaviour may enable the development of new drugs that block its action and prevent dangerous blood clotting.


Dr CL Jackson and Dr PD Weinberg


British Heart Institute, University of Bristol; and Imperial College London (respectively)




In the UK, almost 2∙6 million people have heart disease. These people have thickening of their artery walls, which harden and become known as ‘atherosclerotic plaques’. These plaques can be unstable and can rupture, leading to a blood clot. The blockage of blood flow that results from clotting can lead to a heart attack if blood flow to the heart is blocked, or to a stroke if blood flow to the brain is blocked. This research duo from Bristol and London will investigate in detail what may cause plaques to rupture. They aim to increase our understanding of plaque behaviour and in doing so may help improve treatment of dangerous plaques.


Dr M Bond and Prof AC Newby (BHF Prof)


Bristol Heart Institute, University of Bristol




Pioneering research has significantly improved treatments for heart disease. Every year more than 400 000 people are treated for coronary heart disease in hospital, many of whom undergo surgery to repair the heart and blood vessels through procedures such as angioplasty. However, for some patients the surgery causes muscle cells in the artery wall to change function and increase in number.  This can cause dangerous re-narrowing of the artery. A research duo from the Bristol Heart Institute will study a gene that promotes the inappropriate growth of these muscles. Their findings may lead to new medicines that can be given to patients to increase the success of heart surgery.


Dr S Kasparov et al


Bristol Heart Institute (SK) and University College London (co-researchers)




In the UK, almost 2.6 million people have heart disease, which can severely affect quality of life. Heart disease changes the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide that reaches organs around the body. The brain detects these changes and through the nervous system signals the body to adapt by changing heart rate and blood pressure. However, in some patients with heart disease such as heart failure or high blood pressure, the resulting changes may worsen the disease. This Bristol and London team will analyse the molecular signalling in the nervous system during heart disease. Their findings may lead to treatments to control inappropriate responses of the body to heart disease and improve patients’ quality of life.


Dr S Sitsapesan


University of Bristol




Every individual heart cell must contract and relax in a coordinated way for the heart to beat and pump blood around the body. Calcium plays a crucial part in ensuring that this heart rhythm is maintained correctly. When a heart cell contracts, the level of calcium in heart cells increases; when it relaxes, it decreases. Irregularities in these calcium levels can cause an abnormal heart rhythm or heart disease. Dr Rebecca Sitsapesan has previously identified a new protein called MG23 that may regulate calcium levels in heart cells. Now, Dr Sitsapesan will investigate how MG23 is regulated itself and how it may control calcium balance in heart cells.


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