Finding new heart failure treatments

25 September 2014        

Close-up of Dr Satnam Singh, who is a BHF-funded researcher at University of Aberdeen.

Dr Satnam Singh, a cardiology registrar and BHF-funded researcher at The University of Aberdeen, tells us about his research to improve treatment for people with a common form of heart failure.

Heart failure means your heart struggles to pump oxygen-carrying blood around the body, which can leave you exhausted and breathless.

I’m interested in a form of heart failure, which presents with the classic signs and symptoms of heart failure, but when the heart is scanned, it appears to be working normally. This is known in the medical world as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. If the heart appears to be pumping normally, I imagine you’re wondering what the problem is.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction

This form of heart failure is due to a failure of the heart to relax and therefore fill properly on exercise. This appears to be due in large part to the combination of an energy deprived heart and stiff arteries.

There are no effective therapies that have been tested in large clinical trials

Dr Satnam Singh
BHF-funded researcher

Typically the condition is more common in older women than men. Most have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes and sometimes are overweight. We estimate that up to 40-50 per cent of people presenting at hospital with heart failure have this form of the condition.

But, as a doctor, it’s a challenge to help these people – there are no effective therapies that have been tested in large clinical trials. This clinical challenge has inspired me to come up with solutions through research.

Our research in Aberdeen

Thanks to the BHF I’m able to work in a pioneering research team led by a former BHF Professor, Michael Frenneaux, who is now Regius Chair of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen.

We’re running three projects focused on heart failure with preserved ejection fraction:

  • Improving diagnosis and investigating how common this condition is in the elderly
  • Improving understanding of the underlying processes behind the condition
  • Investigating the potential of a new drug treatment called Perhexiline

Professor Frenneaux has already shown that Perhexiline can help people with the inherited condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and also people with other forms of heart failure. If our studies show that Perhexiline could help people with this form of heart failure, it would be a major breakthrough.

Cutting-edge techniques


Working at University of Aberdeen has been a unique experience which wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the BHF’s supporters and volunteers.

I have learnt how to use sophisticated imaging techniques like cardiac MR spectroscopy (to assess energy levels in the heart) and exercise echocardiography (to assess the cardiac function during exercise) and diagnostic tests like cardiopulmonary exercise tests (to investigate the cause of breathlessness), which are proving invaluable in my research and will benefit my patients too.

I hope my research and hard work can transform the quality of life for people with heart failure and help to save lives.

Satnam's research is funded by your donations. You can help fund more research like his and continue our fight for every heartbeat.