Mending Broken Hearts Appeal - help us fight for a cure

Annual Review 2011

scopeResearch

We'll continue to pioneer research into the causes of heart disease and improved methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

We aim to achieve this by:

Our achievements in 2009-10professor

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 GP.

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.