Professor Channon and his team are carrying out an ambitious programme of work to identify new ways to treat coronary heart disease, when the arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart become narrowed by fatty plaques.
He wants to establish a ‘precision medicine’ approach – where care is tailored to individual patients.
The genetics behind coronary heart disease
Over 50 genes have now been identified that contribute to risk of coronary heart disease - many thanks to BHF-funded research. However, the underlying mechanisms behind this increased risk are still, in many cases, unknown. Discovering how the genes increase risk is likely to lead to new treatments for heart disease. These are urgently needed to further reduce the number of people dying prematurely from a heart attack.
Using a variety of experimental approaches, Professor Channon and his team are searching for new genes and pathways that, when faulty, lead to coronary heart disease. Their work involves studying genes and proteins from human samples, including cells, blood vessel tissue and plaques to work out how these gene changes can lead to disease.
A unique clinical research centre
Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, where some of Professor Channon's research takes place, benefits from a purpose-designed clinical research centre which admits new patients with suspected heart attack or stroke to a purpose-designed clinical research centre, partly funded by donations to the BHF. Here, the doctors take samples and advanced imaging measurements for research at the same time as the patient receives the most up-to-date clinical care.
The samples taken include blood to analyse each person’s genes, the fatty plaque responsible for a heart attack and, when a patient undergoes bypass surgery, blood vessel samples from which cells can be grown in the lab. This allows the researchers to compare in unprecedented detail the relationships between the patient’s clinical disease, genetics, plaque composition and behaviour of their cells in culture, providing new clues to how our genes can affect our heart attack risk.
Translating this into new medicines
Professor Channon's broad programme of research will delve further into any newly understood mechanisms. They will study these directly in mice, to find out exactly what these genes do in mice by studying how fatty plaques develop, and where potential new drugs can be tested as the first step towards new treatments for patients.
Professor Channon will work alongside experts in Oxford’s BHF Centre of Research Excellence. His findings could inform other areas of heart and circulatory disease, including atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and stroke.
Professor Channon hopes his research programme will ultimately unveil a new pipeline of new genes, molecules and pathways that underpin susceptibility to coronary heart disease. His work will explain how they lead to disease and will inform new drug development to treat the condition.
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