The £2.5 million ‘Oxbridge’ BHF Centre of Regenerative Medicine is headed by BHF Professor Paul Riley, a world-leading researcher in the area of heart regeneration.
By bringing together these internationally renowned universities in this unique collaboration, the ‘Oxbridge’ Centre will benefit from the expertise of five BHF Professors: Martin Bennett and Nick Morrell at Cambridge as well as Shoumo Bhattacharya, Hugh Watkins and Paul Riley at Oxford.
Professor Riley made headlines with his discovery that a non-beating type of cell from the outer layer of the heart could – if cajoled with the right molecules – become a beating heart muscle cell.
This finding proved that we might be able to 'remind' cells in the heart how to divide, grow and change to replace lost cells after a heart attack. After all, we all grow new heart cells in the embryo, right at the start of life – and some animals like the zebrafish never forget.
At the ‘Oxbridge’ Centre, researchers are looking at how stem cells – which can divide and turn into other cells – form the heart at the start of life. This will give us clues about how we might rewind the clock.
Complementary research programmes will look at the processes that occur in the heart shortly after a heart attack, such as the invasion of inflammatory cells to an area of damaged muscle, and the formation of inflexible scar tissue. The body's own response can make a heart attack much worse – but developing new treatments to tackle it could make a huge difference for patients.