Professor Barbara Casadei combines her role as a heart doctor at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford with pioneering work to improve our understanding of atrial fibrillation (AF).
Her work could lead to new treatments for people affected by this condition, which greatly increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Philippa found out that she had atrial fibrillation after going to the doctor with severe stomach pains, you can find out more about the huge impact heart and circulatory disease has on sufferers and their families on Your Stories.
Understanding atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation or AF affects more than 950,000 people in the UK. It's the most common arrhythmia - irregular heartbeat - which occurs when electrical impulses fire off from different places in the top chambers of the heart in a disorganised way. It's a particularly common problem in patients who have had heart surgery, such as coronary artery bypass surgery to reduce chest pain. Between 35 and 50 per cent of patients develop AF shortly after heart surgery.
Professor Casadei has become one of the UK’s leading experts in the complex processes behind AF.
The search for new treatments
One of Professor Casadei's exciting research projects is trying to reduce the chance of patients developing AF after coronary artery bypass surgery, using statin therapy. Studies have shown that statins, which are usually used to lower cholesterol, could prevent the crucial first stages in the development of AF in patients who have undergone major cardiovascular surgery.
Other projects run by Professor Casadei are looking at a possible link between AF and inflammation. Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s response to infection and injury, but is also linked to other diseases, particularly coronary heart disease (CHD), the major cause of heart attacks. Another strand of her work will shed new light on the part played by nitric oxide, an important signalling molecule, in the development of AF.
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Professor Casadei joins four other BHF Professors at the University of Oxford – Shoumo Bhattacharya, Rory Collins, Paul Riley and Hugh Watkins. All five are also part of our pioneering £8.9m BHF Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Oxford.
Find out more about Professor Casadei in her interview for Heart Matters.