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Congratulations are in order for Senior Postdoctoral Research Scientist Dr Joaquim Miguel Vieira, who was been awarded an Intermediate Fellowship from the British Heart Foundation. This award will fund research designed to better understand the basic mechanisms behind cardiovascular development and could pave the way for innovative treatments of heart disease.

Joey vieira

Dr Joaquim Vieira, a Senior Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Professor Paul Riley’s team, has been awarded a BHF Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellowship for his research “Investigating the functional role of the noncoding genome during epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition to enable cardiovascular regeneration." 

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a large portion of the heart decreases or stops, causing damage to the heart muscle. Nearly one billion of muscle cells are permanently lost after such event and replaced by non-contractile scar tissue in a process called fibrosis that further compromises the function of the heart and ultimately, leads to heart failure. To date, no treatment has been effective in mending the heart following a heart attack.

In recent work here at DPAG, Dr Vieira has demonstrated that the heart attempts to replenish its damaged tissue by reverting to similar processes that were used in the embryo to build the heart before birth:

In particular, cells from the outer layer of the heart, the epicardium, become activated in a process called epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), but this activation is transient and insufficient to support new blood vessel and muscle growth as it happens in the embryo, instead activated epicardial cells in the adult heart support the process of fibrosis. I propose that understanding the process of EMT in greater detail will enable the development of better drugs to stimulate the heart to repair itself more efficiently after a heart attack - Dr Joaquim Vieira

The award from the BHF will fund a five-year basic science project designed to functionally explore the yet poorly understood role of non-coding RNAs in the regulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during heart development.

The aim is to achieve a better understanding of EMT and its regulatory mechanisms to enable novel therapeutic approaches for heart disease.

I am very grateful to the British Heart Foundation for sponsoring me for the next five years. This is an exciting opportunity for developing my research on understanding the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating cardiovascular development, as an independent scientist working in a world-class environment. It is my belief that the knowledge arising from this study will enable the development of innovative and effective treatments for cardiovascular disease - Dr Joaquim Vieira

More information on the BHF Intermediate Basic Science Fellowship is available here.