Professor Bennett heads up the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the
University of Cambridge, which is based in laboratories funded largely by the BHF.
The team includes both clinical and basic science researchers, who collaborate with many other teams in the hospital to maximise research opportunities and transfer findings back to the clinic.
A major focus of research is to understand how we might improve the health of arteries in
heart disease, by stabilising the cells in the blood vessel wall. This could prevent dangerous narrowing of blood vessels, and consequently, heart attack. The team has identified some important molecules that control the way that cells multiply - proliferation - and how cells die.
talks to Heart Matters about atherosclerosis, the process behind heart disease. Cell proliferation
Professor Bennett’s team has discovered why cells in the advanced fatty plaques of diseased arteries don't multiply well, preventing repair of minor blood vessel damage and increasing the risk of clot formation and heart attack.
The team have also studied how blood vessel cells are affected by disease therapies such as
stents, which reopen blocked arteries, and radiation therapy, for cancer. These treatments trigger too much cell multiplication, which can narrow the vessels, and the work has led to the design of drugs that are currently being tested to prevent such side effects.
Stents are fitted during a relatively simple procedure called an
angioplasty - read about what it's like to need a stent in Maureen's story. VIDEO
Healthy smooth muscle cells in the wall of blood vessels are essential for stabilising the
fatty plaques that can build up in arteries. The team have found that the death of these cells makes a plaque more prone to rupture, which could lead to a blood clot and therefore, heart attack.
Professor Bennett’s team study the regulation of this process and have determined that smooth muscle cells from advanced plaques have lost the ability to protect themselves from cell death, and are also killed by local inflammatory cells.
These studies have clarified the cell death processes in heart disease, and will examine whether medicines can prevent it.
New studies have shown accelerated ageing of cells in severe fatty plaques, making them less able to repair and regenerate.
The team are working to clarify the processes behind this phenomenon, aiming to design medicines to slow the ageing process.
Read more about our
achievements in heart attack research that are now benefiting patients.
Find out more about Professor Bennett's work with heart patient volunteers.