Heart researchers at St George’s, University of London have been awarded prestigious grants of more than £650,000 by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The grants have been funded through the BHF Great British Bag-athon, which raised £4m last year by encouraging people to donate bags of unwanted items to BHF shops across the country in the fight against heart disease.

Hugh Markus, professor of neurology, and colleagues have been awarded almost £125k to study whether the epilepsy drug sodium valproate can reduce stroke risk. This study could reveal a new and better way to prevent strokes and may pave the way for completely new drug development.

Steven Jeffrey, professor of human genetics, and colleagues have been awarded over £565k to study how faulty genes can cause swelling in the arms and legs. This will enable researchers to better understand the causes of genetic lymphoedema and may reveal new clues about heart disease.

Professor Steven Jeffrey, said: "We are extremely grateful to the BHF for their continuing and expanding support for our research into lymphatic disease. This grant will allow us to understand how two genes, GATA2 and KIF11, affect lymphatic growth and development. Our eventual aim is to use this knowledge for the benefit of those patients who suffer with lymphoedema."

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “Treatments for heart disease have come on leaps and bounds over the past 50 years. Through funding ground-breaking research, the BHF has played a major part in that. But there is still much more to be done and this pioneering research project is helping to advance our fight against heart disease.

“Thanks to generous donations to our South West London shops, the people of Wandsworth have helped us fund this cutting-edge research. They can help us to fund more research at St George’s, University of London by having a clear out and donating even more this year. Every bag you fill is a bag full of life saving research.”

The BHF has announced the awards to coincide with this year’s campaign, which hopes to achieve one million bags of unwanted items.

Visit here for more information about the BHF’s Great British Bag-athon.