in biomedical sciences is studying the intricate
workings of the heart in two apparently different
situations which show surprising similarities.
The projects are looking at enlargement of
the heart, or hypertrophy, commonly caused
by raised blood pressure. Although hypertrophy
also occurs during endurance training exercise,
in athletes the enlargement stops when the
hearts size matches the bodys
physical capacity, whereas with raised blood
pressure it continues to enlarge, leading
to heart failure. The scientists hope to understand
the cellular and genetic changes which make
the heart behave this way, and why in some
cases it can be fatal, yet in others not.
The hearts contractions are influenced
by sodium levels in the cells, regulated by
certain proteins, said Professor Orchard.
The levels and distribution of these
proteins change during hypertrophy, and we
need to know both the consequences and what
genetic message is causing these changes.
Eventually, wed like to see if the progression
can be stopped, by finding if its
possible the first signal which sets
off the chain of events towards heart failure.
Professor Clive Orchard is studying hypertrophy
caused by raised blood pressure with Dr Simon
Harrison, who is also part of the team looking
at exercise-induced hypertrophy, with Dr Ed
White and Dr Rudi Billeter-Clarke. Both projects
are funded by the British Heart Foundation,
with a total research grant of £300,000.