UCL News


Q&A with Dr. Chloe Park - ESC Young Investigator winner 

29 September 2015

What is your role and what does it involve? Our research group moved to UCL less than 2 years ago.

Chloe Park interview image   A key attraction for us was the close links that ICS has with longitudinal studies (cohorts) based at UCL, particularly through omic platforms and cross cohort analysis.  Our group has enriched this relationship by bringing our non-invasive cardiovascular physiology measures to clinical and cohort studies here.  

A further strength at UCL is our close collaboration with other Faculties, such as the Faculty of Brain Sciences, which has significantly enhanced our ability to provide objective, automated and state of the art measures of cerebral structure and function; this latter in particular has been of extreme value in furthering my work on vascular/cognitive interactions.

Our research is important because despite a recent decline in death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) it still remains the biggest killer in the UK and a major cause of ill health.  While we are getting better at controlling some risk factors (e.g. smoking and blood pressure), others appear to be getting worse (e.g. obesity and diabetes).

You recently won an award for your work, congratulations! Can you tell us more about it?

Thank you very much. My award was for Young Investigator in the Clinical Science category at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) annual congress. The ESC is a major global cardiovascular scientific conference which was held here in London last month.  

32,778 participants from five continents attended and over 11,000 abstracts were submitted from 100 countries.  I presented data from the Southall And Brent REvisted (SABRE) Study. SABRE is an observational cohort study funded by the British Heart Foundation and the Wellcome Trust which has followed a unique cohort of Europeans, South Asians and African Caribbeans for more than 25 years. It is the largest tri-ethnic cohort in the UK. The aim of the SABRE study is to understand ethnic differences in cardiometabolic risk.  The title of my ESC talk was 'Subclinical left ventricular dysfunction is associated with reduced brain structure and function'.  

We have found that even small changes in heart function are strongly associated with a decline in brain volumes and cognitive functions (memory, attention and executive function).  These associations remain after accounting for conventional and vascular risk factors which suggests that heart function could have a direct impact on the structure and function of the brain. 

How do you think your work and recent success relates to UCL 2034 themes?

Our SABRE work addresses 3 of the 4 grand challenges that are key to the top level UCL research strategy 2034, including global health, human wellbeing and intercultural interaction.  By understanding explanations for ethnic differences in disease risk, we can begin to define tailored interventions to prevent and treat poor health, and to enhance quality of life, not just for the local multi-ethnic population, but also for these ethnic groups around the world.  Our unique cohort has already informed policies and practice, for example ethnic appropriate obesity cut-points to screen for diabetes, and we aim to continue producing these high level impacts  

Tell us about the current projects you're working on! What is next on your to-do list?

As a vascular physiologist I specialise in using state of the art non-invasive measures to understand fundamental mechanisms of disease. With regard to the SABRE study I am continuing to develop my work on interactions between the cardiovascular system and other systems, such as cognitive function.   I am also part of a new study called SEA CHANGE (Study of Emerging Adulthood and Cardiometabolic Health in ALSPAC: the iNfluence of Growth and other Exposures) which is in collaboration with Bristol University and funded by the British Heart Foundation. 

Although CVD and diabetes mainly affects people in mid- or old-age the seeds are sown and develop throughout foetal development, infancy, childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Therefore in order to understand how early development contributes to cardiovascular structure and function in early adulthood we are going perform detailed cardiovascular and metabolic measurements on 25 year old participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC); a birth cohort that has been studied intensively since before birth.

How do you work with the UCL Populations and Lifelong Health domain?  Have you benefited from funding opportunities in your research career thus far?

I am an active participant in this domain and I have benefitted from the regular workshops. The Wellcome Trust's Institutional Strategic Support Fund provided financial assistance which enabled me to return to work after my maternity leave when I was in-between grants from the British Heart Foundation.