View all news

Funding for cardiovascular regeneration research

Press release issued: 24 March 2010

Research into cardiovascular regeneration has been given a boost with a grant of over £550,000 awarded to Dr Costanza Emanueli in the Bristol Heart Institute by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Research into cardiovascular regeneration has been given a boost with a grant of over £550,000 by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).  Cardiovascular regeneration is the process where new blood vessels are able to restore blood supply to tissue that has been damaged during a heart attack or by diseases like diabetes.

The BHF senior fellowship renewal grant has been awarded to Dr Costanza Emanueli, Reader of Research in Experimental Cardiovascular Medicine Research in the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) at the University of Bristol.

Dr Emanueli found in her first BHF fellowship that neurotrophins (NTs) are able to promote cardiovascular survival and neovascularisation in damaged heart and limb muscles and in experimental studies they enrich the damaged heart with cardiovascular progenitor cells. 

During her second fellowship, Dr Emanueli will expand these findings by powering embryonic and adult stem cells with neurotrophins in order to improve the therapeutic potential of stem cell therapy for vascular regeneration.  This should ultimately translate to patients with restricted blood supply.

During ischaemia blood supply to a tissue is reduced or blocked completely by the hardening or furring of the arteries or a blood clot.  In order for the tissue to regain function, and the body to repair itself, the blood supply to the tissue has to be restored.

Ischaemic disease affects a large number of people in the world and, despite improvement of revascularisation techniques, a number of people die after ischaemic damage or become physically disabled.

Angiogenesis gene therapy and stem cell therapy have been proposed as biological therapies able to deliver vascular regeneration and restore damaged tissues. However, these promising approaches are still far away from clinical success, for which intense top-class research is essential.

Pioneering clinical trials with bone marrow-derived stem cells in acute heart attack or limb damage showed that this method was safe, and provided a temporary, mild clinical benefit.

However, Dr Emanueli believes further research is needed.  Stimulating heart and vessel-resident stem cells may be a better approach for vascular regeneration, together with the use of embryonic stem cells. Nonetheless both these require a better understanding of the processes controlling growth and development of stem cells into blood-vessel cells, and the molecular signals that underpin survival and expansion for clinical exploitation.

Dr Emanueli said: “For the first part of my fellowship I obtained experimental data showing that nerve growth factors and neurotrophin-3 could aid regeneration of the ischaemic heart. I now intend to translate these findings to benefit ischaemic heart disease patients.”

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, added: “Dr Emanueli is a rising star in an area of research that we hope will herald a steep improvement in the prevention and treatment of heart and circulatory disease over the next decade. We’re delighted to have been able to continue funding Costanza’s Fellowship, thanks partly to the sterling fundraising efforts of BHF supporters in Bristol.”


Further information

British Heart Foundation Senior Fellowship renewal award, £564 000, entitled Neurotrophins for vascular (re)generation: a translational research program to improve therapeutic options for ischaemic disease patients.

The Bristol Heart Institute is made up of over 200 researchers and clinicians, from eight different departments in the University of Bristol, spanning three faculties, and from associated Bristol NHS Trusts. Research income is generated from grants, with the British Heart Foundation being the Institute’s main funder.

As well as improving collaboration between scientists and clinicians within the Institute, the aim is to communicate research findings to the public.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the nation’s heart charity, dedicated to saving lives through pioneering research, patient care, campaigning for change and by providing vital information. But we urgently need help. We rely on donations of time and money to continue our life-saving work. Because together we can beat heart disease.

Please contact Joanne Fryer for further information.
Edit this page