Each year in the Yorkshire and Humber region around 10,000 people die after suffering from a heart attack or stroke, often caused by a blood clot forming in the arteries that lead to the heart or brain
Blood clots are made from a mesh of fibres which traps blood cells and makes the clot hard to remove.
Today the British Heart Foundation (BHF) announces funding of over £100,000 to University of Leeds researchers looking to destroy this mesh and therefore make clots easier to break down.
The Leeds research team led by Dr Ramzi Ajjan has made a very large amount of artificial small proteins called Affimers and has selected those that bind well to a protein called antiplasmin also present in the blood clot and which stops it from being broken down.
Now they will test which of these Affimers are best at making a blood clot less stable by binding to the antiplasmin and stopping it from preventing the clot from being broken down. Their aim is to find Affimers that most efficiently disrupt the mesh of the blood clot, which could be used to treat patients who are at high risk of a heart attack, where this mesh is more compact and harder to break down.
Nazan Khan, 55 from Leeds, has had four heart attacks.
Nazan’s first heart attack was in 1997, after which he had a quadruple bypass to divert blood flow around clogged sections of his arteries. He has since had three more heart attacks, the latest in 2013, which have needed to be treated with more surgeries.
The first heart attack came completely out-of-the-blue, I was only 35 and quite active and fit. All of the attacks have left me in fairly poor health and I now suffer from breathing difficulties and at times can barely walk. Eventually I may need a heart transplant.
It’s great to know that research is being conducted which could ultimately help people at high risk of having a heart attack, like me.
Dr Ramzi Ajjan, Associate Professor and Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Leeds, said:
Currently, if a person develops a blood clot in the artery leading to the heart they require life-saving intervention that can involve physically removing the clot before the heart becomes irreparably damaged. However, we’re hoping that eventually this research will enable us to target the fibrinogen of people at risk and prevent these clots from forming in the first instance.
This month, the BHF is campaigning to raise awareness of the death and suffering that heart disease causes for people of all ages. Over the past 50 years we’ve come a long way and now seven out of 10 people survive a heart attack. However, far more research is needed to improve diagnosis and treatment. For more information about the British Heart Foundation’s campaign or support the charity’s life saving research visit: www.bhf.org.uk.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said:
This research is exploring a very new approach to try to prevent blood clot formation in patients at risk, and if successful could pave the way for valuable new treatments.