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Photo courtesy of the British Heart Foundation

Professor Paul Riley delivered a key presentation about his team's research at the British Heart Foundation's new Pledger Research Event, held at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford on Tuesday 26 February 2019.

The 32 people in attendance included supporters who have pledged to leave a gift in their Will to the BHF, and their guests, who may not have left a gift or be connected to the BHF.

The purpose of the event was to highlight how important their gifts are to the BHF, to thank the audience for helping to support continued scientific research into tackling heart disease, and involve supporters more closely in their work.

This event marks the first time the BHF has held a Q&A session with their supporters, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 99.6% of recorded responses classed as good or excellent.

Paul Riley's talk outlined some key facts about his research. During a heart attack, you can lose up to 1 billion heart muscle cells, which cannot be replaced. Instead the heart is patched-up by a non-functional scar, which over time can lead to heart failure, for which there is currently no cure.

Paul's team is looking at regenerative models from zebrafish to neonatal mice to understand how these models can repair their own heart and restore lost muscle and blood vessels after injury. Their focus is on the outer layer of cells in the heart, the epicardium, which if removed blocks regeneration in zebrafish, but if stimulated results in improved outcome after a heart attack in mice. 

The ultimate goal is to find a drug that can stimulate epicardial cells in the human heart, in order to regenerate lost cardiovascular tissue after heart attack. 

Heart regeneration after a heart attack is a 'holy grail'. By building on our previous work in animal models, to stimulate heart regeneration-from-within, and extending to drug discovery in human patients, we hope to turn this into a reality to treat a major cause of heart failure. - Professor Riley

Paul's presentation was very well received, with one guest commenting that it was very clear, interesting, and pitched at the right level for the audience.

He was joined on the day by Greg Jones, BHF Media Manager in the Research Engagement team, June Davidson, BHF Senior Cardiac Nurse, and his talk was followed by a case study presentation, who shared her personal story about her experience with a heart condition. 

Professor Riley commented that "it was an excellent event, very well organised with an enthusiastic and very well informed audience - an important outreach to encourage public support for BHF funded research."

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