Life saving research

A female researcher in a lab

Thanks to the fantastic generosity of our supporters, we’ve funded some of the most important research breakthroughs in heart disease.

We’re the largest independent funder of heart and circulatory disease research in Scotland. Right now, we’re investing £63 million in 125 projects in universities across Scotland, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and St Andrews.

Across the UK, we fund six Centres of Research Excellence, and we’re very proud that two of them are in Scotland, at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. These centres encourage innovative approaches in the fight against heart disease by bringing together leading scientists from different disciplines.

Here are just a few examples of the work we’re funding:

‘Broken heart syndrome’

Dr Dana Dawson leads a team at the University of Aberdeen studying stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also known as takotsubo or ‘broken heart syndrome’.

People with the condition experience similar symptoms to a heart attack, except there are usually  no blockages in the coronary arteries. 

The researchers have discovered that, in takotsubo, the heart muscle is temporarily swollen due to inflammation. They will now study this further to find out if inflammation is the key mechanism driving the condition and slowing down recovery, which may reveal new insights into causes and possible treatments.

Air pollution and heart disease

Heart and circulatory disease accounts for 80% of all premature deaths from air pollution. For over a decade, our air pollution research has been led by David Newby, BHF John Wheatley Professor of Cardiology at the BHF Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Newby’s team has been at the forefront of proving the links between air pollution and cardiovascular disease. They have focused on ultra-fine nanoparticles found in diesel and petrol fumes, which prevent blood vessels from  working efficiently, increasing the risk of clots forming, leading to heart attacks. 

Most recently, research at Edinburgh used innovative techniques to show that nanoparticles can travel into the blood and accumulate in already diseased blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Understanding high blood pressure

BHF Professor of Cardiology Rhian Touyz heads up our Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Glasgow. Professor Touyz specialises in hypertension – or high blood pressure – which can cause devastating conditions including heart attack, stroke and dementia. 

Her team is investigating links to ageing and other possible causes of damage to the blood vessels which contribute to hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions. Nearly 30% of adults in Scotland have high blood pressure, and half of them are not receiving treatment.

How harmful are e-cigarettes?

As more smokers use e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking, we need to understand more about their potential impact on heart and circulatory health. BHF-funded researchers at the University of Dundee are studying their effects on blood vessels, compared to tobacco cigarettes.

Dr Jacob George and his team are recruiting local volunteers to take part in the VESUVIUS study, looking at the blood vessel health of people using e-cigarettes containing nicotine and people using e-cigarettes without nicotine, compared  to people smoking regular tobacco cigarettes.

To find out more about our current research, sign up for our research update e-newsletter.