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Congratulations are in order for Associate Professor Nicola Smart, who has been awarded a renewal of her British Heart Foundation Senior Basic Science Research Fellowship. The award will fund research investigating the processes behind blood vessel growth in order to understand how to stimulate heart repair after injury.

Nicola Smart.JPGOver the past five years, the Smart Group’s research has been supported by both the British Heart Foundation and the family of Ian Fleming, the author best known for the James Bond series who died after a heart attack. The BHF have now renewed Prof Nicola Smart’s British Heart Foundation Senior Basic Science Research Fellowship for five more years. The award will enable her team to further build upon their work towards better understanding how building new vessels in the heart is controlled.

After a heart attack, large portions of the heart are deprived of blood flow and growth of new blood vessels is crucial for repair of the damaged muscle. However, to date, no treatments have been effective in clinical trials. Prof Smart and her team's recent work has shown that the heart attempts to repair its blood supply by redeploying similar processes to those used in the embryo to build the heart before birth.

There are two main sources for vessel growth: the inner lining of the heart (endocardium) and a large vein (coronary sinus) and the researchers have identified some of the ways in which vessel growth from these sources is controlled. They propose that understanding these processes in greater detail will enable the development of better drugs to stimulate the heart to grow vessels more efficiently and repair itself after a heart attack.

 

Our research has benefited enormously from the support of the BHF and the family of Ian Fleming. I'm delighted that the BHF have agreed to renew my fellowship. This research will take us a step closer towards understanding how to stimulate new vessel growth and repair in the growing population of patients who live with heart failure. - Prof Smart