Study hopes to shed new light on heart disease
The researchers we are funding at the University of Edinburgh are to use pioneering imaging techniques to study scarring in the heart, which could pave the way for major advances in saving and improving more lives related to heart disease.
Scarring of heart tissue and muscle occurs in many different conditions, including after a heart attack and heart valve disease. When scar tissue builds up, it prevents the heart from beating efficiently and is a major cause of heart failure, a debilitating disease for which there is no cure.
Until now, scanning technology has only been able to detect scars in patients once they have already formed, narrowing treatment options.
Now scientists have received a £671,000 grant from us for a clinical study using state-of-the-art scanning and imaging which, for the first time ever, hopes to identify scars in patients in the early stages of their development. This could mean that patients would be treated more effectively and eventually, potentially before the effects of scarring are irreversible.
The researchers say their study could also allow them to detect scars in other areas of the heart that they were previously unable to see.
Professor Marc Dweck, Chair of Clinical Cardiology at the University of Edinburgh and Consultant Cardiologist, leads the project and explains: “We are really excited to start this study. So far we have only been able to see scars in the heart that have already formed, perhaps many years or decades ago. Our work hopes to shed important light on the scars currently occurring at the time of analysis. Is the heart scarred or is it scarring? This in turn will help increase our understanding of how scarring develops in the heart and how best to treat patients and prevent the development of heart failure. Another advantage of this type of procedure is that it is non-invasive, which is obviously good news for patients.
If the study proves successful, the researchers believe these imaging techniques could potentially be used for a range of heart conditions.
Professor Dweck continues: “The ability to image scarring in real time, as it develops in heart muscle, would be a major scientific breakthrough, which could improve our knowledge of a wide range of heart muscle disorders and accelerate the development of new treatments. It could really change the way we diagnose and treat patients.
The study will take place over the next three years and is expected to involve approximately 200 patients.
Dr Anna Barton, PhD student and Honorary Registrar in Cardiology at our Center for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Edinburgh, works with Professor Dweck and says: “I am delighted to be studying scarring in heart muscle and working in close collaboration with participants who have suffered a heart attack. BHF’s support for this project, which will form the basis of my thesis, is greatly appreciated. It has been fascinating to see the first images which provide a high level of detailed information on how each person’s heart works It is also very gratifying to see patients regularly tracking their hospital stay and seeing their progress while that life returns to normal for them and their loved ones.
Fueling science to help save more lives
Our head of BHF Scotland, James Jopling, said: “This is an example of how cutting-edge research is transforming our understanding of heart disease, including coronary heart disease – the cause of most heart attacks – and the one of the biggest causes of death in Scotland. That’s why we’re funding vital research across the country, made possible only by the generosity of the public. For more than 60 years, this support has helped us bring research to life that once sounded like ‘science fiction’, and together we’re helping science save and improve more lives. »
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