Professor Mary Sheppard is a cardiac pathologist who diagnoses the causes of sudden cardiac death in the UK. She has established a national death database, which helps in family cardiological screening because many of the causes are genetic.
Her main area of interest are the conditions causing sudden cardiac death, such as sudden adult death, sudden arrhythmic death, cardiomyopathies including dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, metabolic cardiomyopathy and acquired cardiomyopathies. She also has an interest in congenital heart disease, including anomalous coronary arteries.
Professor Sheppard's main focus is on the pathological diagnosis of all these conditions by examining the heart and using light microscopy to make a specific diagnosis.
She is interested in the underlying pathophysiology factors that cause cardiomyopathies, and uses quantification and immunocytochemistry to look at these factors with use of a powerful rapid scanner.
She also has an interest in:
- cardiac inflammation, myocyte abnormalities, and fibrosis in the heart
- abnormal structure of the heart during development
- aortic disease including aortic aneurysms and inflammation of the aorta
- cardiac valve disease including aortic stenosis, valve calcification, mitral regurgitation and infections including endocarditis
Professor Sheppard is a specialist cardiac pathologist and has established a national cardiac referral centre with funding from the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) to investigate sudden young cardiac deaths in the UK.
She qualified in medicine from University College Cork and did her postgraduate specialisation in pathology in London. She is a national trainer for cardiac pathology for forensic and general pathology trainees in the UK.
Professor Sheppard has published 240 peer reviewed papers, 30 book chapters and 9 international guidelines. She is at present working on the third edition of her book on cardiovascular pathology. She has completed the guidelines on the investigation of sudden cardiac death issued by the Royal College of Pathologists in 2015. She is also on an international committee developing guidelines for training in cardiovascular pathology.
With funding from CRY and St George's, Dr Sheppard has developed a national database on sudden cardiac death which is the largest in the world and is a rich source of research.
She collaborates closely with cardiologists including Sanjay Sharma, Elijah Behr, Maite Tome, Jan Till and Michael Papadakis. Alongside the expert examination of the hearts, she is collecting genetic material from each case so that a genotype/phenotype correlation can be established in most cases, in collaboration with clinical geneticists and cardiologists.
Professor Sheppard does extensive research and teaching on sudden cardiac death and has built up an international reputation in the field. She was awarded the Stokes Medal for her work by the Irish Cardiovascular Society in 2009 and gave the Phillip Poole Wilson memorial lecture in London in October 2014. She was invited as visiting professor to the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia and New Zealand's annual meeting in 2014, to the Turkish Pathological Society in 2015 and to the International Academy of Pathology of South Africa in 2015. She will be visiting professor to the Forensic Academy of Australia and New Zealand in 2016 as well as to the Brocher Foundation for Human Genetics on cardiac disease in Geneva.
Professor Sheppard is President of the European Association of Cardiovascular Pathology and is on the board of USA Association of Cardiac Pathology.
1. Treacy AD, Norita K, Ingram PJ, Sheppard MN. Pseudotumour formation in atheromatous coronary arteries. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2015;32:73-6.
2. Stone JR, Bruneval P, Angelini A, et al. Consensus statement on surgical pathology of the aorta from the Society for Cardiovascular Pathology and the Association for European Cardiovascular Pathology: I. Inflammatory diseases. Cardiovascular Pathology: the official journal of the Society for Cardiovascular Pathology 2015.
3. Rydman R, Gatzoulis MA, Ho SY, et al. Systemic right ventricular fibrosis detected by cardiovascular magnetic resonance is associated with clinical outcome, mainly new-onset atrial arrhythmia, in patients after atrial redirection surgery for transposition of the great arteries. Circulation Cardiovascular imaging 2015;8.
4. Ryan C, Barbour A, Burke L, Sheppard MN. Non-infectious aortitis of the ascending aorta: a histological and clinical correlation of 71 cases including overlap with medial degeneration and atheroma-a challenge for the pathologist. J Clin Pathol 2015;68:898-904.
5. Notari M, Hu Y, Sutendra G, et al. iASPP, a previously unidentified regulator of desmosomes, prevents arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)-induced sudden death. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015;112:E973-81.
6. Nademanee K, Raju H, de Noronha SV, et al. Fibrosis, Connexin-43, and Conduction Abnormalities in the Brugada Syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol 2015;66:1976-86.
1. Notari M, Hu Y, Sutendra G, et al. iASPP, a previously unidentified regulator of desmosomes, prevents arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)-induced sudden death. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015;112:E973-81.
2. Papadakis M, Raju H, Behr ER, De Noronha SV, Spath N, Kouloubinis A, et al. Sudden Cardiac Death with Autopsy Findings of Uncertain Significance: Potential for Erroneous Interpretation. Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. 2013.
3. Behr, ER, Sheppard MN, Wright M et al. Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) - a national survey of sudden unexplained cardiac death. Heart 2007 January 19;93(5):601-5.
Sara Santos Vidal
Professor Sheppard has collaborated with the following researchers:
- Dr Elijah Behr on Channelopathies
- Professor Sanjay Sharma, Dr Gherardo Finnocchio and Dr Michael Papadakis on sudden death in sport, left ventricular hypertrophy and fibrosis in the heart
- Dr Pia Ostergaard and Mansour Sahar on cardiac lymphatics
- Dr Nidhi Sofat on inflammation
Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has funded research by Professor Sheppard.
Professor Sheppard runs an annual Cardiac Pathology Course at St George’s.