Finding efficient ways to regenerate the heart and blood vessels

The BHF Ian Fleming Senior Basic Science Research Fellowship. Augmenting Epicardial-Based Regeneration and Vascular Protection via Thymosin β4 and LRP1

Nicola Smart (lead researcher)

Oxford, University of

Start date: 01 June 2013 (Duration 5 years)

Damage to the lining of a blood vessel can lead to the accumulation of a fatty plaque (atherosclerosis) and also allows immune cells to infiltrate the vessel wall. These immune cells destroy the muscle and elastic layers of the blood vessel wall, weakening the vessel. Rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque, with formation of a clot, can lead to a heart attack or stroke. If the weakening occurs in the wall of the aorta – the body’s main artery – it can lead to an aneurysm – a balloon-like swelling of the aorta. New muscle growth can strengthen vessel walls and protect them from rupture.

In this Senior Fellowship, Dr Nicola Smart at the University of Oxford will explore whether a protein, thymosin b4, which is important for producing muscle in blood vessels as they grow in the embryo, can encourage new muscle growth in damaged blood vessels by altering how muscle cells respond to growth factors through a second protein, LRP1.

After a heart attack, heart muscle cells are damaged and cannot be replaced. Thymosin b4 stimulates cells from the outer layer of the heart to move to the site of damage and make new heart muscle and blood vessels. Although encouraging, this process is inefficient. As another strand to this fellowship, she hopes to enhance activation of outer layer cells and promote more new heart muscle.

Project details

Grant amount £841,343
Grant type Fellowship
Application type Senior Basic Science Research Fellowship
Start Date 01 June 2013
Duration 5 years
Reference FS/13/4/30045
Status In progress

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