New funding for research may lead to better heart failure treatments

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The £114,500 funding from national charity Heart Research UK will allow the Cardiac Signalling Team based at the University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic research to find out why and how heart muscle cells do not divide and instead die, according to a press release.    

Protein kinases are a group of enzymes that regulate every aspect of cell function including growth, division, survival and death. The Reading team, led by Angela Clerk, will study in detail all the protein kinases found in heart muscle cells, over the next two years.

As enzymes, the kinases make ideal “targets” for developing new drugs that prevent them from working or change what they do.  This work could lead to new treatments for heart failure and allow the heart tissue to regenerate.

Studies show that nearly 80,000 people a year die from heart disease in the UK, almost as many as it takes to fill Wembley Stadium, with more than 750,000 people in the country living with heart failure. The two-year research project will provide crucial insights into why and how heart muscle cells stop dividing and do not regenerate.

Clerk said: “I am absolutely delighted that Heart Research UK has chosen to support this ground-breaking research. Our team have been one of many globally that have worked on individual key enzymes in the heart over 20 years, but this research will enable us to look at all 300-plus kinases for the first time ever. This is good news for current sufferers as we all aim to bring new therapies to the clinic in the coming few years.”

Barbara Harpham, National Director of Heart Research UK, said:  “Heart failure is a very debilitating condition, and due to the ageing population, the numbers affected are expected to soar.  This University of Reading project is exciting because it could provide new ways of treating heart failure and hopefully giving patients a better quality of life.

“Our aim at Heart Research UK is to fund research that benefits patients as soon as possible.  This latest grant brings to nearly £300,000 the amount we have funded on research projects in Reading in the past 10 years. What people raise locally is spent locally.”