Healthcare news

Belfast scientists awarded £150,000 for heart attack treatment research

Dr Chris Watson in the lab at Queen’s University, Belfast

BELFAST scientists are to conduct cutting edge research in a bid to offer hope to people recovering from a heart attack.

Dr Chris Watson and his team at Queen's University have been awarded £150,000 to investigate if targeting changes in DNA that happen after a heart attack could be used to treat patients.

The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHFNI) grant will allow the scientists to focus their research on repairing the heart by investigating how a person's genetic code is regulated by a process called epigenetics and how this can change because of the reduced oxygen going to the heart during a heart attack.

The researchers will also determine if using a cancer drug at low levels can target these changes in cells from patients post-heart attack.

Dr Watson said: "After someone has a heart attack there can be damage to the heart muscle which can cause long-term damage to the heart and affect how well it can pump.

"The heart muscle dies because it is starved of oxygen when the blood is not getting to it.

"This research will investigate how someone's DNA is altered by a heart attack by a process called epigenetics, and if this change in the DNA and how it is expressed in the diseased heart is potentially reversible.

"We will especially focus on cardiac fibroblasts, which are responsible for producing substances that make the heart stiff and not pump as well after a heart attack.

"We will also investigate if a cancer drug used in low doses could reverse this stiffness and could eventually help prevent patients developing other disease such as heart failure."

Karen McCammon from BHFNI said it is hoped that the research "could help thousands of people".

"Every week heart attacks devastate local families by killing loved ones and leaving many others with debilitating heart conditions that make the rest of their lives a daily struggle," she said.

"After a heart attack many patients make a full recovery and within a few months are able to return to their normal activities.

"But for others it can lead to further problems such as heart failure which can be a devastating condition to live with.

"Dr Watson's research could help the thousands of people who have a heart attack here every year return to a normal and full life."

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