National Heart Month at UCL
February 2013 is National Heart Month, so what better time to draw attention to just some of ground-breaking cardiovascular research that is currently taking place at UCL.
Blood screening to prevent heart attacks
As recently reported in the Guardian, Professor Steve Humphries’ team (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science) have developed a ground-breaking system to identify Familial Hypercholesteroleamia (FH), an inherited condition that currently causes one person a day in the UK to have a heart attack.
FH is caused by a single gene defect, which leads sufferers to develop dangerously high levels of LDL cholesterol from an early age. However, timely identification of the condition means those at risk can make the necessary changes and receive the right medication, giving them the best possible chance of preventing early cardiovascular disease and therefore considerably increasing their life expectancy.
Professor Humphries’ genetic screening method identifies people who are susceptible to the condition by tracing relatives of known FH patients. This enables patients to receive medication (such as statins) and make changes to their way of life.
The system (known as 'cascade testing') has been successfully trialed in Wales and as only around 10 per cent of the estimated 120,000 people who have FH in the UK are currently identified, top doctors and heart charities (including the British Heart Foundation) are now urging the NHS and ministers to introduce the potentially life-saving system to the whole of the UK.
Developments in heart imaging technology
Elsewhere at UCL, cardiovascular surgery is being transformed by new developments in heart imaging technology. In the video ‘Seeing the heart in 4D’ Dr Antonis Pantazis and Dr Mike Mullen (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science) discuss how through using a combination of x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound they are able to generate live three and four dimensional models of the interiors of patients' hearts. These images are used when preparing for or conducting surgery, and are therefore able to make heart surgery less invasive, leading to faster patient recovery.
These techniques are already making a huge difference to the lives of patients such as George Adonis, who before undergoing surgery suffered from a range of lifestyle restricting symptoms, including being unable to walk for more than a few minutes (see link video above).
New London Heart Centre
UCLPartners have announced plans to create a new world-class Heart Centre in London.
The Trust boards at UCLH NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust as well as the senior team at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust have shown their commitment to the proposed London-based cardiac centre of excellence, which is also being supported by UCL, Queen Mary’s and University of London.
UCLPartners believe that concentrating specialist treatment, teaching and research into just one dedicated heart centre will help improve patient outcomes, provide better value for the taxpayer and increase global competitiveness in life-sciences for cardiovascular disease.
If the proposal is successful, services currently provided by UCLH and Barts Health NHS Trust will come together to form a single Heart Centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in late 2014.
Innovations in Cardiovascular Science Symposium
Cardiovascular disease remains the major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, a challenge that UCL’s Cardiometabolic Domain aims to address by bringing basic and clinical researchers together in order to create new cross-disciplinary links and collaborations.
On Monday 22 April the Domain are holding a one day symposium at the UCL Institute of Child Health: ‘Innovations in Cardiovascular Science’.
The symposium will address key issues, including chronic heart failure, hypertension and therapeutic innovations, and is an opportunity to discover more about innovations in cardiovascular science research across UCL, Queen Mary University of London and UCL partner hospitals.
There will also be a poster prize competition for early career researchers in both the basic and clinical sciences to showcase their work.