Our research achievements in 2015

16 December 2015        

Category: Research

We've funded hundreds of research projects as part of our fight against heart disease this year thanks to the generosity of our supporters and volunteers. With the New Year fast approaching, we’ve highlighted some of our biggest research achievements in 2015 - all made possible by you. 

Air pollution increases the risk of stroke

Cars in smog

BHF Professor David Newby and his team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh, which we fund, showed that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of hospitalisation or death from stroke.

Previous research from the team showed how exposure to air pollution can increase a person's risk of a heart attack and make the symptoms of heart failure worsen. 

Stem cells could mend broken hearts

Three hearts images with MRI

BHF Professor Michael Schneider and Dr Michela Noseda from one of our Centres of Regenerative Medicine identified what could be the most effective stem cells yet for repairing the seemingly irreversible damage caused by a heart attack.  

The damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack can lead to heart failure where the heart is less able to pump blood around the body properly. The symptoms of heart failure can severely life-limiting and the condition has a worse mortality than many forms of cancer.

Read more about our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal to find new regenerative treatments for heart attack and heart failure.

Lymphatic vessels can regenerate the heart

BHF Professor Paul Riley and his team at the University of Oxford showed for the first time that the lymphatic system – which is responsible for transporting white blood cells around the body – plays a vital role in helping the heart repair itself after a heart attack. 

Watch our video about the research:

Identifying children at risk of heart defects

Developing mouse heart shown in red and blue

Professor Christiana Ruhrberg and Professor Peter Scambler at University College London (UCL) worked out how the developing heart forms its two major blood vessels. This knowledge could help identify genetic causes of congenital heart defects, making it easier to find the children that will need urgent surgery to save their lives after birth.

Genetics and increased risk of heart disease in women

Gel electrophoresis to separate proteins

An international study we funded found a gene that is linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease in women. The UCL scientists, led by BHF Professor Steve Humphries, pinpointed the gene in the group that is associated with an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke in women, but not in men. 

Read our interview with Freya Boardman-Pretty, a researcher in Professor Humphries’ team. 

Troponin test to improve heart attack diagnosis

A clinical trial that we funded at the University of Edinburgh led to two major breakthroughs. The researchers showed how we could improve heart attack diagnosis in women. They also showed that using the same high sensitivity blood test, they could rule out a heart attack in two thirds of people arriving at A&E with chest pain. Together these findings could most importantly save lives but also reduce costs for the NHS. 

A faulty gene which triggers arrhythmias

A detailed image of the heart on a black background

Research presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference revealed how a faulty gene can cause fatal, abnormal heart rhythms that are brought on by exercise. A research team from The University of Manchester that we fund, led by BHF Professor David Eisner, found that when someone has a particular faulty gene, a calcium channel in the heart can stay open for too long. This causes a rare but potentially fatal heart condition called CPVT.

Heart muscle disease diagnosis breakthrough

Inoculating a plate

Researchers we funded found new gene mutations which cause an inherited heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. The findings will improve genetic diagnosis of the condition and help save lives. The study at Imperial College London, one of our six Centres of Research Excellence, looked at the DNA of over 5,000 people. The researchers were specifically looking at the DNA involved in making a protein, called titin, which is crucial for healthy heart muscle.

Continuing our fight in 2016

We could not have made all of this progress without your support. Thank you for everything you have done for us in 2015. 

Help us to continue funding research breakthroughs like these so we can make 2016 even better.