We investigate diseases which are leading causes of death both in the UK and worldwide.
Cardiac diseases and conditions
Our research spans inherited and degenerative heart conditions, including:
- inherited cardiac disorders
- coronary artery disease
- cardiomyopathies and aortopathies (such as abdominal aortic aneurysm and Marfan syndrome)
Sudden cardiac death in young people
Roughly 12 people under the age of 35 die unexpectedly each week due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Our scientists are at the forefront of national screening programmes aimed at identifying electrical and structural defects that can lead to sudden death.
We are performing detailed characterisation of genetic, pathological, electrical and structural markers to improve the diagnosis and risk stratification of people susceptible to unexpected death. This phenotype-genotype characterisation has been recently extended to unexplained sudden death in infants as part of an UK and transatlantic collaboration.
Athletes have increased risk for sudden cardiac death due to the extreme stress their hearts are subjected to during strenuous exercise.
The Sports Cardiology Unit within the Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute is ranked number one in the world for its research on athlete’s heart (cardiovascular adaptation to exercise). It provides screening for many large sporting organisations in the UK.
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease (CAD, atherosclerosis) is responsible for more than 73,000 deaths in the UK each year, with more than 2 million people affected in the UK.
Our research concentrates on deciphering the intricate interplay between molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying CAD, for example the role of inflammation in atherosclerosis development and progression. This should enable our researchers to better understand the pathogenesis of CAD, identify biomarkers for better risk stratification and develop effective therapeutic strategies to prevent and/or stop progression of atherosclerosis.
Aortopathies also represent a major underlying cause of sudden death. Scientists in our institute are investigating the cellular, molecular and genetic aetiology of abdominal aortic aneurysm and Marfan syndrome, conditions that can induce dilatation and fatal rupture of the aorta. Current treatment relies on surgical repair of the ruptured aorta, a highly risky and costly procedure.
Research on aortopathies is directed at identification of markers that could be used to improve the diagnosis, monitoring and management of these conditions. Another significant area of work is the characterisation of novel molecules that could be targeted pharmacologically to prevent the growth and rupture of aortic dilatations.