Prof. Andy Baker awarded £1.1m from British Heart Foundation

Issued: Tue, 13 Sep 2011 09:00:00 BST

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has given a top accolade to the University of Glasgow’s Professor Andrew Baker, one of the UK’s leading heart scientists.

The award, which sees Prof Baker become a BHF Professor of Translational Cardiovascular Sciences, is worth more than £1.1 million. It will help him and his team to develop new treatments for heart patients in as little as five years’ time.

The new funding will pay for Prof Baker and other top scientists to work on several cutting-edge research programmes, and also contributes towards new experiments and essential laboratory equipment at the University of Glasgow.

‘Translational Science’ is the process of ‘translating’ discoveries made by scientists in the laboratory into new treatments for patients. This grant will help Prof Baker to use his scientific skills to help patients suffering from coronary heart disease (CHD) and related complications.

In patients with CHD, arteries supplying the heart with vital oxygen become narrowed. The result is often angina, a debilitating chest pain. Angina affects more than 200,000 people in Scotland, and rates here are higher than in the UK as a whole. It’s often treated by heart bypass surgery, where surgeons use a piece of blood vessel – often a vein taken from the leg – to re-route blood flow round a blocked artery.
 
Professor Baker’s Professorship will advance several areas of research which aim to improve the success of procedures like bypass surgery. For example, one recently-announced trial led by Professor Baker will test a new gene therapy, 15 years in the making, on human patients for the first time. The ‘DNA therapy’ aims to stop vein grafts blocking after bypass surgery, which is a big problem for patients. Around half of vein grafts fail within 10 years of surgery, often leaving patients needing further treatment.

Other potential treatments under development from Prof Baker’s team include therapies that use stem cells to regrow lost or damaged blood vessels. Developing this type of ‘regenerative’ treatment is the aim of the BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal. Prof Baker is also investigating the potential of tiny pieces of genetic material called micro RNAs in preventing complications after heart surgery.

Prof Baker said: “Treatments like bypass surgery help thousands of patients every year, but unfortunately they often don’t last forever. We’re looking for ways to help patients when they have heart surgery, to stop their symptoms from coming back in the future.

“We’re using different tools, including DNA and stem cells, to try to make this happen, and we hope to have new treatments ready for heart patients within the next five to ten years. This award will give me and my team the chance to make faster progress, and we’re thrilled we now have the funding we need to reach our goals.”

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, said: “We’re delighted that Andrew Baker has become our newest BHF Professor. We’re hugely excited by his work, which is on the brink of developing new treatments for heart patients. His research gives hope to the millions of people in the UK – and hundreds of thousands in Scotland – who suffer from coronary heart disease.”

The BHF has invested around £37.5m into life-saving research at Scottish Universities over the past five years. Professor Baker is based at the BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre, at the University of Glasgow.

For more information about the work of the BHF visit bhf.org.uk


For more information please call Stuart Forsyth in the Media Relations Office of the University of Glasgow on 0141 330 4831 or stuart.forsyth@glasgow.ac.uk or the BHF press office on 0207 554 0164 or 07764 290 381 (out of hours) or email newsdesk@bhf.org.uk