BHF Professor Ziad Mallat is one of the world’s leading researchers in atherosclerosis and aneurysm.
Atherosclerosis is a common condition caused by the build-up of fatty plaques in the walls of our arteries, and is the underlying cause of heart attacks and strokes. Our immune system sends protective white blood cells to try and clear away the fatty material, but this can cause the artery to become inflamed and make the disease worse.
Who is at risk?
The truth is heart disease affects everyone.
Heart Attack Survivor
Leo, aged 51, from Medway in Kent, had a heart attack five years ago when he was hanging doors in the family home. He went on to have a triple bypass and now lives with the emotional impact of having been through a life-threatening event in his 40s.
What can we do?
Professor Mallat is striving to develop new treatments that stimulate the cells that protect our arteries without stimulating the damaging ones.
He is also an expert in aneurysm, a potentially fatal condition which occurs when white blood cells release enzymes that attack the artery wall, making it thinner and letting the artery swell with blood, so it eventually bursts.
There are currently no treatments that specifically target the immune system in atherosclerosis, and no treatment that can stop an aneurysm getting worse.
Professor Mallat’s work will help us understand how our immune systems can actually make atherosclerosis worse. He’s exploring new ways to stop our immune systems overreacting and slow the progression of the disease in our blood vessels.
It seems that some types of white blood cells are harmful and can make arteries get worse more quickly, while other types are helpful and can slow down the disease. Professor Mallat has identified certain types of white blood cell that counteract the development of atherosclerosis. Harnessing these cells might give us new treatments to combat the build up of fatty plaques in our arteries.
He's also working to discover which set of white blood cells is responsible for weakening the artery wall - knowing this will help us design new treatments for aneurysms.