Partnership looks to the heart of biomedical research

A new partnership is set to explore how science can have a major impact on one of Britain’s biggest killers by enhancing the understanding of cardiovascular health and disease.

Biomedical organisation the Francis Crick Institute and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have entered into a six-year partnership, which will support collaboration on cardiovascular research, translation and training.

According to the charity, there are 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, and tragically, 450 people die every day as a result.

To further fundamental understanding of heart development, BHF is providing valuable funding to support new Crick and BHF group leader, Rashmi Priya (pic), to drive the new partnership.

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Understanding how the heart develops is vital to understanding what goes wrong in various forms of heart disease, as well as finding new ways to prevent and treat them. This research could hold the key to unlocking the mystery of why some hearts are more susceptible to disease than others. We are incredibly excited about the discoveries that could be yielded by partnering with the Francis Crick Institute, and the potential lives that could be saved.”

Priya explained: “The heart is the first organ to develop and function as this is crucial for the survival of embryonic life. During early development, the inner surface of the heart forms a complex network of muscle fibres called trabeculae, which are crucial for blood flow and beating of the heart. Trabeculation defects compromise heart function and increase the risk of heart failure.

“The main goal of my lab is to understand how these crucial muscular structures are formed in a developing heart. We take advantage of zebrafish embryos, as their heart forms in a similar way like us, but they are transparent, which makes it possible for us to see the heart develop at minute details.

“Using advanced microscopic, genetics and biophysical approaches, my lab will examine the growth of trabeculae in real time in a developing zebrafish embryo and identify processes and molecules shaping these crucial structures. The outcomes will help us identify better diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases. I am grateful to the BHF for supporting our work.”

Rebecca Wilson, head of strategic partnerships at the Crick added: “This is our first partnership with the British Heart Foundation, and we’re looking forward to see how we can collaborate in more ways to support the study of cardiovascular health and disease.”

Peter Ratcliffe, clinical director at the Crick added: “This is a great example of the biomedical research community working together to progress understanding of a group of diseases which affect so many lives, and for which there is still much for science to uncover.”

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