New research will study smallest vessels of the heart

New research by the University of Birmingham and funded by the British Heart Foundation will study the damage caused to the smallest vessels of the heart following a heart attack.
 
Researchers at the University have developed a state-of-the-art imaging technique, which was funded by a previous BHF grant. This particular microscopy technique allows them to look in detail at microvessels in the beating heart.
 
Microvessels are so small that they cannot be seen when using standard scans for heart conditions, such as an angiogram or echocardiogram.
 
The BHF has now awarded £153,000 of PhD studentship funding to the University to study these tiny vessels, which play a crucial role in regulating blood supply to the heart. During a heart attack, microvessels become dysfunctional and contribute to organ damage.
 
The new funding will also allow researchers, using the University’s novel imaging technique, to assess the impact that a protein called IL-36 has on the heart’s microvessels following a heart attack.
 
Previous work by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that this protein could play a leading role in damaging microvessels, particularly in older hearts. This is because a receptor that this protein uses, which generates its damaging effects, is found at higher levels in older hearts than in younger ones.
 
Using mice, the research will characterise and compare the damage that a heart attack has on the small blood vessels within young and old hearts. The study will also test human heart tissue samples from
heart patients to determine whether IL-36 and its receptor are present.
 
The three-year research project is set to get underway at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences later this year and will be led by Dr Neena Kalia, Senior Lecturer in Microcirculation Research and Director of Intravital Research at the University of Birmingham.
 
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