£140,000 boost to develop drug that protects the heart

Issued: Wed, 07 Mar 2012 13:42:00 GMT

Dr George Baillie, a Reader of Biochemistry within the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences has received a Translational Research grant of £142,586 from national heart charity, Heart Research UK, to explore the development of novel drugs to protect the heart.

Heart disease can result from the death of heart muscle cells following problems such as oxygen starvation, which occurs if the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become blocked, or because of the pressure overload that results from having high blood pressure.

To combat heart cell death, the body makes small proteins that protect the heart muscle cells. One such protein, HSP20, protects the cells following physical stress and also improves the pumping ability of the heart. HSP20 is only required in the heart during times of stress and lies dormant in heart cells until needed.

Recently, it has been discovered that HSP20 binds to another protein called PDE4 which makes it more difficult for the body to switch on HSP20 when the heart is under strain. One way to get around this problem is to use a drug that blocks the activity of PDE4. Such drugs do exist, however, they are rarely given to patients as they would lead to undesirable side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea. This research project will study the way in which HSP20 and PDE4 interact and design new drugs that specifically dislodge the PDE4 that is bound to HSP20 without affecting PDE4 elsewhere in the body. As a result these drugs should be safer with fewer side-effects.

Dr Baillie, says: “The grant is a boost to my career and reputation in the field, as the economic crisis has meant that the amount of grant funding available has lessened dramatically over the past couple of years and that is why I am so grateful to Heart Research UK for providing the funding for my project. The grant will allow me to pursue one of my scientific aims, which is to develop a cardio-protective compound that could be used against a number of heart conditions. Heart and circulatory disease is Scotland’s biggest killer and sadly claims almost 17,000 family members every year – that’s around a third of all deaths. These facts are the driving force behind my effort to discover a novel route through which to treat CHD.”

Barbara Harpham, National Director at Heart Research UK, says: “Here at Heart Research UK, we fund research projects that have the quickest turnaround from ‘bench to bed’ from the ‘lab to the patient’. Dr Baillie’s project aims to achieve exactly that, with the development of safe, new drugs that will help to protect vital heart cells from dying. Everyone has been has been affected by the depressing financial climate.  However thanks to our generous supporters we are still managing to help people affected by heart disease live healthier, happier, longer lives.” 

Notes for editors

For more information contact Cara MacDowall in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3683 Mobile: 07875 203 387 or email cara.macdowall@glasgow.ac.uk


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