continue to pioneer research into the causes of heart disease and
improved methods of prevention, diagnosis and
We aim to achieve this by:
Our achievements in 2009-10
A molecule called Lp(a) has long
been suspected of playing a role in heart disease, but clear proof
that it actually causes heart attacks has been hard to come by.
BHF-funded researchers led by BHF
Professor Hugh Watkins pinpointed the two genes associated with
Lp(a) production in a genetic ‘hot spot’ area of DNA known for its
links to heart disease.
One in six people carry at least one of the genes, which
significantly raises their
risk of having a heart attack.
The findings may lead to new medicines for preventing heart
disease, and open new avenues of research for treatments. Most
exciting of all, the genes also reveal clues that could help to
understand how heart disease develops.
Hard work pays off
Research projects can often take years to yield results, but in
2009-10, three of our lines of inquiry have come to fruition and
will really pay health dividends in the future.
Aspirin can reduce the risk of a heart
attack in people with heart disease, but could it help prevent
heart attacks in those with healthy hearts? Our studies have
finally established that aspirin’s side effects, notably bleeding,
outweigh the benefits for people with healthy hearts.
Now we’re funding research to investigate the risks and benefits
of aspirin for people with type 2 diabetes, where the evidence is
unclear at the moment.
We also discovered that expensive new cholesterol tests were no
more effective than current methods and that overnight fasting
before the test wasn't necessary – great news for NHS finances and
for hungry heart patients.
Further savings will come from our discovery that home genetic
testing kits for diabetes risk were no better at predicting
people’s risk of type 2 diabetes than a free health check with your
And we’re continuing to invest in cutting edge genetics research
to unravel the clues that DNA gives us about heart health.
Protecting the heart
Research led by Professor Derek Yellon at University College
London suggests that using a blood pressure cuff to restrict the blood flow to the arm just before
a heart bypass operation can help
protect the heart during it.
This seems to boost the body’s protective responses, causing
chemicals to be released from the arm to the heart, where they
appear to protect the heart muscle.
The researchers are now trying to find out exactly why this
technique helps the heart cope with surgery, and plan to monitor if
and how this leads to a better recovery.