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Two BHF Fellows handpicked for funding by the London Marathon

Research projects led by BHF Senior Fellow Sarah De Val and BHF Intermediate Fellow Joaquim Vieira have been selected by the British Heart Foundation as two of eight regenerative medicine projects to be funded by the 2022 TCS London Marathon. As the Charity of the year, the BHF is aiming to raise £3 million for cutting-edge research that could lead to improved new treatments for heart failure. Nearly a million people in the UK are living with heart failure, often a long-term consequence of damage caused by a heart attack. 

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Developing blood vessels in zebrafish by Associate Professor Sarah De Val

After a heart attack, the heart often fails to form adequate new blood vessels to fully heal. Associate Professor Sarah De Val and Dr Alice Neal have been studying the pathways regulating the formation and differentiation of vein and lymphatic vessel in both development, and after a heart attack or other tissue damage. Not only are venous and lymphatic endothelial cells crucial for the correct function of the circulatory system, they can also be used as building blocks for other types of vessels.

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Dr Joaquim Vieira is studying cells of the epicardium, the outer layer of the heart, which are vital to normal heart development, including the growth and maturation of coronary blood vessels, the myocardial (heart muscle) layer and cardiac valves. If we can understand how epicardial cells contribute to these processes, we can better understand what goes wrong, not only in adult heart disease, but also in congenital heart disease in children.

Both project leaders look forward to the move to the BHF co-funded Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM) in 2022 ahead of the Marathon.

Prof De Val said:

“It’s going to be fantastic, because we will be on an entirely cardiovascular floor, sharing a large lab with other BHF-funded researchers, and we will be enriched by new collaborations.”

Dr Vieira said:

“Not only will we have a critical mass of expertise in heart development in one place, we will also have dedicated immunology and neuroscience floors. On the immunology side, inflammation is a critical aspect of heart disease, and on the neuroscience side, the autonomic nervous system controls cardiac function. There is immense potential for crosstalk interactions.”

Read more on the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) website.

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