Staff and customers from convenience stores firm McColl’s Retail Group raised £209,500 during its Halloween charity campaign, which was donated to St George's to help with research into sudden cardiac death in young people.


Dr Elijah Behr said this year's successful funding raising effort will support research work to understand the causes of sudden death and improve prevention.

"Specifically it will support the project of the existing Cardiac Risk in the Young and McColl's funded research fellow Dr Bode Ensam. It will also permit funding of a further research fellowship into the mechanisms underlying sudden death in the young," he said.

Dr Ensam is currently developing a clinical trial to investigate a cardiac drug called Ajmaline to see the effects it has on the heart's electrical tracing in normal healthy individuals.

The drug is currently used in the diagnosis of Brugada syndrome, an inherited condition in which life threatening heart rhythms can occur, often leading to cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death, Dr Ensam said.

"Those with this condition do not have any physical signs and may not have any symptoms. There is, however, a common pattern seen on the electrocardiogram (ECG) in patients with Brugada syndrome. This is not always present at rest, but it can be uncovered with Ajmaline," he said.

"What is not known, however, is the true sensitivity of Ajmaline and whether the ECG pattern in Brugada syndrome can be produced in those without the condition.

"We believe there are a number of genetic and structural determinants to a patient's response to Ajmaline and hope to be the first to identify these. We will be advertising for volunteers for this exciting trial in the very near future."

The money will also help Dr Yanushi Dullewe Wijeyeratne, Cardiology Specialty Registrar and former NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow, who is a Clinical Research Fellow in the department.

Her research is focused on cardiac genetics and inherited heart rhythm disorders that predispose to sudden death in young adults. She will be using the funds to generate stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes from patients to investigate mechanisms of disease and potential new treatment options.

St George's and Dr Behr are extremely grateful for the continuing and invaluable support of McColl's Retail Group for this vital work. 

Every week in the UK, 12 apparently fit and healthy young people (aged 14-35) die suddenly from undiagnosed heart conditions. In 80 per cent of cases, there are no signs or symptoms.


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