University of Leicester Triumphs Again at 2012 Regional Competition for Postgraduate Researchers
Andrew Vanezis Wins East Midlands Engineering and Science Professionals Prize
The University of Leicester has made it two years in a row with PhD candidate Dr Andrew Vanezis of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences winning the 2012 East Midlands Engineering and Science Professionals Prize.
Andrew, who is supervised by Dr Glenn Rodrigo and Professor Nilesh Samani, beat off a strong field of postgraduates from other East Midlands universities to win the prize for his work into how temporarily blocking blood flow can actually help the heart become more resistant to damage caused during heart attacks. Andrew's success follows that of fellow Leicester researcher Will Nicholson who won in 2011.
Heart failure is a debilitating condition in which the heart is unable to supply sufficient blood and therefore oxygen and nutrients for the bodies needs, and is a major cause of morbidity and death in the UK. In spite of the introduction of strategies to unblock the coronary arteries of patients suffering a heart attack, many surviving individuals go on to develop heart failure, and it is estimated that around 2% of people in the UK over 45 years of age suffer from some degree of cardiac failure.
Andrew, who started his PhD in 2011, is conducting exciting research adopting a new angle on an old story. At Leicester Andrew and his group have been conducting research into the phenomenon of "conditioning" in which the arm of a patient is "squeezed" using a pressure cuff for short periods resulting in protection of the heart against the acute injury of a heart attack. They have shown that the arm responds to this transient stoppage in the blood by releasing substances into the blood which then travel to the heart where they bind to receptors on the surface of the cells and stimulate pro-survival pathways rendering the heart resistant to injury.
The process by which a damaged heart begins to fail involves a complex "remodelling" of the individual cells and the underlying architecture of the wall of the pump. What Andrew and his group have noticed is that many of the pathways triggered by the blood born agents released during "conditioning" are also known to prevent this remodelling process. Their results show that these agents in addition to protecting the heart cells posses a powerful ability to prevent the adverse enlargement of damaged cells, which is characteristic of the remodelling process. The group is currently investigating the molecular mechanisms responsible for this.
This work which utilizes a completely safe technique to recruit an endogenous protective mechanism of the body has the potential to not only reduce injury during a heart attack but also to prevent adverse changes to the heart of the recovering patient. Andrew and his group hope to be able to use the results of their research, which is supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Cardiovascular Disease, to develop a treatment regime for patients during and after a heart attack.
Andrew, who received as his prize £500 and an engraved silver tankard, said "I was both surprised and honoured to have my research recognised in this way. The quality of the presentations on the day was very strong; ultimately I think the judges were impressed with the translational nature of my research and the potential of remote ischaemic conditioning to become an important clinical tool in the fight against heart failure post heart attack".
About East Midlands Engineering and Science Professionals
East Midlands Engineering and Science Professionals provides a voice on the common issues for the engineering and science profession in the East Midlands and works to make people more aware of the vital contribution that engineering and science make to the economy, prosperity, and quality of life in the region.
The EMESP Prize is an annual award given to a postgraduate researcher from one of the region's universities. In 2011 and 2012 the EMESP Prize has been won by the University of Leicester.
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