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New BHF grants for Bristol heart research

22 July 2008

Five heart research projects at the University of Bristol have been awarded prestigious grants by the British Heart Foundation

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.

Below are details of the new BHF grants announced to research institutions in Bristol, along with a summary of the projects concerned.

  • £220,288 to Dr Ingeborg Hers, BHF Research Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry, and Dr Andrew Mumford, Senior Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

    Patients who have a particular blood disorder called a ‘myeloproliferative disorder’ produce too many blood cells. These patients are at high risk of developing blood clots, which can lead to serious or life-threatening events such as a heart attack or stroke. New medicines are needed to treat this disorder. Most patients with this condition have inherited genetic errors that cause small blood cells (called platelets) that are involved in blood clotting to become switched on too easily. This Bristol team will investigate the signalling that controls platelets and its disruption in patients with myeloproliferative disorders, potentially leading to new treatments.
  • £184,751 to Professor Alastair Poole in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

    In the UK, someone has a heart attack every two minutes. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart. Treatments to prevent injury to the heart during a heart attack are needed urgently. The cells, called platelets, that form clots are sticky and clump together. Professor Alastair Poole from the University of Bristol will investigate several proteins that control the stickiness of platelets. The findings will reveal new information about how blood clots form and aid the development of new medicines that prevent blood clots.
  • £173,647 to Professor David O Bates (holder of a BHF lectureship) in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and his team.

    The formation of new blood vessels is a tightly regulated process that can have both beneficial and harmful effects. Vessel growth is vital during wound repair or on re-establishing blood supply to the heart after a heart attack. However, inappropriate growth of new vessels can contribute to some types of disease. There is an important need to understand more about how new blood vessels form so that new medicines to promote or prevent vessel growth can be developed. A team from the University of Bristol will investigate a family of proteins called VEGFs, which seem to have essential roles in vessel growth and function. Their findings will help the development of new medicines that control vessel behaviour.
  • £149,465 to Professor John Squire, Research Fellow in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and his team.

    The walls of blood vessels have a structure like a net, which filters molecules that are present in the blood: molecules that are the correct size and shape can pass through the net wall to reach the cells that make up the blood vessel. This filtering ability of the vessel wall is important for normal function of the circulatory system. Small changes in the filter may mark the start of heart and circulatory disease by contributing to a build-up of dangerous plaque material on vessel walls. This Bristol team will use computer modelling to investigate this filtering mechanism to obtain a more detailed picture of how it occurs. Their findings will lead to greater understanding about the important properties of blood vessels and how these may be disrupted.
  • £74,969 to Mr Gavin J Murphy, Walport Consultant Senior Lecturer in Cardiac Surgery, Clinical Science at South Bristol, and his team (including BHF Fellow Dr Mohamed Ghorbel and BHF Professor Gianni Angelini).

    Every year, many patients with heart disease undergo life-saving surgery. However, kidney damage can occur as a result, leading to complications that can be life-threatening. The reasons why kidney injury occurs are not fully understood and new treatments for this complication are urgently needed. This Bristol research team will investigate the mechanisms behind this kidney damage linked to surgery and blood transfusion. Their findings may identify ways to protect the kidneys during surgery and to treat damage that may occur to them.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF said: ‘These newly awarded research grants ensure that the best research into prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease continues to be supported, leading to better ways to treat the UK’s biggest killer’.


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