Professor Baker is the BHF Professor of Translational Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, and was previously BHF Professor at the University of Glasgow. He has also taken over from BHF Professor David Newby as Director of the Scottish BHF Centre of Regenerative Medicine.
People with coronary heart disease often need heart bypass surgery to stop the pain it can cause in the chest, called angina. The procedure helps tens of thousands of patients like Leo every year, but the benefit doesn't always last. Professor Baker leads a team of scientists aiming to ‘translate’ discoveries made in the laboratory into new treatments for heart patients, including those who suffer from angina.
Using genes to treat heart disease
Over the past decade, through research at our Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, Professor Baker has built up a vast knowledge of how to use genes to treat diseases. This is known as gene therapy. Now he is working hard towards embarking on the first ever gene therapy trial for heart bypass patients.
The therapy uses DNA to change the behaviour of cells in the vein grafts used in heart bypass surgery. Surgeons use pieces of vein from patients to re-route blood round a blocked artery – but over time, the grafts often become blocked. Around half of patients have this problem within ten years of surgery, which means their angina may return.
Professor Baker has already shown that his gene therapy approach can stop vein grafts from blocking in animal models. The next step is to see if it really works in human patients. If the new trial is successful, the therapy could offer hope to thousands of patients every year.
Vital new discoveries
Professor Baker's research at the Scotland-based Centre of Regenerative Medicine could help people like Lorraine. Lorraine had a heart attack in her 40s and her heart was so damaged that she is now suffering from heart failure.
If the new trial is successful, the therapy could offer hope to thousands of patients every year.
BHF Professor Andrew Baker
With our £1.1 million award, Professor Baker’s team aims to develop new therapies that use stem cells to regrow lost or damaged blood vessels, particularly after a heart attack. Developing this type of ‘regenerative’ treatment is the aim of the Scotland-based Centre.
Treatments of the future
Professor Baker is also investigating the potential of genetic material, called non-coding RNAs, in preventing complications after heart surgery. This work could lead to new treatments in the future.
Read more about this research into non-coding RNAs in our magazine Heart Matters.