UofG research could help identification of new treatment target for heart patients

Issued: Tue, 27 Mar 2018 00:01:00 BST

A new research project at a leading Scottish university aimed at understanding how some heart conditions develop may help pave the way for the development of new treatments for these diseases.Heart Attack 450

The project, funded by national charity Heart Research UK, will study how changes in a protein called collagen, causes defects in the structure and function of the heart.

The results could pave the way for development of new treatments to help patients with heart conditions including cardiomyopathy, heart failure and damage following heart attacks.

Tissues in the body, including the heart, are made up of cells that are surrounded by a material called the extracellular matrix. Within this matrix there is a structure called the basement membrane, which forms a sheet-like structure that surrounds the muscle cells of the heart.

One major component of the basement membrane is a protein called collagen. Small changes called mutations, in this protein can lead to defects in the structure and function of the heart. The mutant protein accumulates within cells of the heart, leading to defects in the matrix. These defects appear similar to the formation of scar tissue in the heart, known as fibrosis, which is linked to heart failure.

Dr Tom Van Agtmael, Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, said: “We have already shown that mutations in this collagen protein cause defects in the eyes, kidneys and blood vessels, but now we also know they can affect the heart too.

“Our recent work using cells of patients in the laboratory has shown that treatment with a particular drug can reduce the accumulation of abnormal collagen. Thanks to Heart Research UK, we can explore this further and test whether the drug can prevent or reduce the severity of heart defects due to these collagen mutations.”

The University of Glasgow is just one recipient of Heart Research UK’s Translational Research Project Grants. Awarded since 2009, the national charity based in Leeds has given almost £5m to fund these innovative and pioneering medical research projects across the UK.

Barbara Harpham, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK, said: “Our Translational Research Project Grants aim to bridge a gap between laboratory-based scientific research and patient care.

“This innovative research project will allow us to gain a better understanding of heart biology and how defects develop, which in the longer term will help people with heart disease to live happier, healthier and longer lives.”

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

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