Finding new ways to diagnose and treat myocarditis

Novel molecular targets for the diagnosis and treatment of myocarditis (Dr Edward Stephenson)

Federica Marelli Berg (lead researcher)

Queen Mary, University of London

Start date: 01 August 2016 (Duration 3 years)

Supervised by BHF Professor Federica Marelli Berg, this Clinical Research Training Fellow is looking for new ways to diagnose and treat myocarditis, when the heart muscle becomes severely inflamed.

It is difficult to diagnose myocarditis as the test involves doing an invasive biopsy of the heart muscle, and it is not very sensitive and can miss the diagnosis. There is also no specific treatment for myocarditis. Although we know that immune cells called T cells cause inflammation of the heart muscle in myocarditis, we don’t know exactly which T cells are involved and how they are encouraged to travel to the heart.

Professor Marelli Berg’s research team has discovered that a molecule released from heart cells, called hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), is needed for T cells to infiltrate and damage the heart. These T cells carry a combination of proteins called receptors on their surface, which act like a ‘molecular signature’ to identify them.

In this project, the fellow will monitor the expression of the T cell ‘signature’ in the blood of people with acute and chronic myocarditis. Blocking HGF can prevent heart inflammation in mice, so the fellow will test in mice if blocking a protein receptor on the T cell that attaches to HGF prevents these cells from travelling to the heart.

If successful, this research could reveal a new, non-invasive laboratory test to diagnose myocarditis, and a possible new way to treat it.

Project details

Grant amount £169,243
Grant type Fellowship
Application type Clinical Research Training Fellowship
Start Date 01 August 2016
Duration 3 years
Reference FS/16/18/31973
Status In progress

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