Healthy patients needed for breakthrough heart disease study

Published: 9 May 2008

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are calling for healthy patients to help them identify quicker and easier ways to pinpoint those at risk of developing heart disease.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are calling for healthy patients to help them identify quicker and easier ways to pinpoint those at risk of developing heart disease.

Scientists will use new tests to study cardiovascular function and develop ways to determine those who might be vulnerable but have not shown any symptoms.

It is hoped the Vascular Function in Coronary Artery Bypass study will lead to earlier identification of potential heart problems in patients.

Professor Anna Dominczak, who is leading the study, said: “Although a huge amount is known about the various causes of cardiovascular disease, there are still thousands of patients who suffer from the condition at a premature age, who have no known risk factors.

“It is clearly not enough to treat these patients once they developed symptoms of heart disease. We should aim to prevent it from the very beginning. However, to do this we must know more about the underlying causes.

"Our research shows that there is a complex interplay between genetic factors and risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. The VASCAB study will analyse these factors and look for novel ones, which will lead to better understanding of the mechanisms that cause cardiovascular disease."

Professor Dominiczak and her team at the University of Glasgow BHF Cardiovascular Research Centre have set up the study to perform in-depth analysis of the mechanisms involved in coronary heart disease and find out new diagnostic techniques.

As part of the study, the VASCAB team will assess the state of the blood, heart and blood vessels of patients with severe coronary artery disease, and compare it with healthy subjects of the same age who do not have such cardiovascular problems. This approach will help them to develop new methods of identifying the key signs of coronary heart disease.

Professor Dominiczak said: "As part of the study we will examine the structure and function of blood vessels with ultrasound and other non-invasive techniques.

“Traditional studies use unpleasant invasive techniques but as we are testing healthy patients, there is little point in using them. This new study will take a fresh look at non-invasive methods to broaden their use.

“These techniques are less daunting for the patient and quite simple compared to current invasive techniques, and in addition they offer accurate information. In the future these tests will help us to identify subjects with heart disease when it starts to trigger, even before it affects the vessels and before the heart function is impaired.

“We will know what specific mechanisms may be altered for certain patients and then individually tailor treatment to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

"The VASCAB study will increase our understanding of what is a hugely important condition, and will put Glasgow and Scotland at the forefront of medical research."

Cardiovascular disease, which causes heart attacks and strokes, remains the most significant cause of hospital admission and premature death both in Scotland and worldwide. Coronary heart disease is the condition where blood vessels are too tight to supply enough blood to the heart or are even completely blocked. Treatment of coronary heart disease has improved over recent years, but many patients still require balloon angioplasty to open up the arteries or bypass surgery.

If you are aged between 50 and 70, and are not known to have had heart disease or stroke, then you may be able to take part in this study. Participation involves a 90 minute visit to the BHF Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University.

The study visit consists of a short questionnaire, blood tests looking in particular at genes and other causative factors, urine tests, and non-invasive tests such as an ECG, an ultrasound of the heart and analysis of the pulse wave. Volunteers will have the benefit of a health screen, and all relevant results will be fed back to your GP.

If you think you may be able to help, or would like to find out more about the study, please phone the BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre on 0141 330 4558 or 0141 232 9515.


For more information, contact Ray McHugh in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email

First published: 9 May 2008

<< May