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Bristol researchers lead the fight against cardiovascular disease

Professor Gianni Angelini

Press release issued: 8 August 2014

Research at the University of Bristol will help the British Heart Foundation in its mission to cut premature deaths from cardiovascular disease by 25 per cent.

The charity says that too many people die young from devastating cardiovascular conditions, which include heart attack and stroke. Around 40,000 people in Bristol are living with cardiovascular disease and it causes more than one in four of all deaths nationally.

Research breakthroughs have played a major role in the halving of premature deaths in the under 75s over the last 20 years. Advances in heart attack treatments mean 70 per cent of victims leave hospital alive and the use of statins is helping millions cut their risk of having a heart attack.

In a bid to make even more progress, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has pledged to reduce premature deaths from cardiovascular disease by 25 per cent by 2025 through increasing its investment in research and reducing the time it takes to turn new discoveries into life-saving medical treatments.

At present, almost 80 research projects are funded at the University, receiving over £18 million.

Gianni Angelini, BHF Professor of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Bristol, investigates problems encountered during surgery in order to find life-saving solutions. One such solution is a technique to keep the heart beating during bypass surgery, avoiding more invasive methods and resulting in fewer post-surgery complications.

Along with his team, Professor Angelini is now investigating how they can improve heart surgery for newborns. They are working on developing ways to regulate oxygen levels during surgery to give babies the best chance of a quick and complete recovery after operations.

Professor Angelini, who is Director of the Bristol Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, said: “We know cardiovascular disease blights the lives of too many people in Bristol. But the research we’re pioneering could lead to far better surgery for the twelve babies born with congenital heart defects every day in the UK.

“We hope the work we’re doing now will benefit future generations for years to come. Through our research, we’re committed to reducing the number of people living with, and dying from cardiovascular conditions in Bristol and across the country.”

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the BHF, said: "We’ve made huge progress in the fight against cardiovascular disease, with 70 per cent of heart attack victims now surviving to go home to their families. But these figures are a stark reminder that far too many people in Bristol are dying early from cardiovascular disease. There is still so much more we need to do.”

By increasing investment in research, the BHF’s strategy offers a new focus on reducing the time it takes to turn research discoveries into life-saving medical treatments.

For the first time the BHF will fund a dedicated translational research awards scheme totalling at least £5 million over five years, which will explicitly bridge the gap between a scientist’s initial findings and the treatments that will change and extend the lives of heart patients.

There is also a firm commitment to reduce the levels of inequality when it comes to cardiovascular disease deaths to make sure that people have the best chance to live a life free of fear of dying from cardiovascular disease, regardless of where they live.

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