7 million people in the UK live with cardiovascular disease every day. Our research seeks to understand the genetic, molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms that underpin cardiovascular health and disease by using a multitude of technologies, approaches and cross-cutting disciplines.
Manchester is an ideal place to conduct cardiovascular research, with a population of 3.5 million people in the catchment area of the city’s major cardiac centre Manchester University Foundation Trust.
Our long-standing reputation for excellence in cardiovascular basic discovery science and excellent clinical links mean we can develop opportunities for translation of this research.
Our major areas of research focus on:
- cardiac physiology and heart failure;
- hypertension and its complications;
- human genetics of cardiovascular disease.
To establish the relevance of our basic science discoveries in human cardiovascular disease we link our physiological excellence to our expertise in human genetics, -omics technologies, and bioinformatics.
Using our in vivo expertise we functionally characterise loci identified in human genomic studies to discover their physiological impact and potential targetability in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Our concept is to be able to investigate from the single cell through to clinical studies, thereby allowing the rapid development of new discoveries into novel therapies to improve cardiac conditions which have enormous morbidity and mortality.
Our basic scientists and clinicians are developing an understanding of the cellular and molecular processes underlying cardiovascular disease in order to improve clinical treatments and patient care.
Our scale and success can be seen in:
- Current major personal awards and funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for two Chairs, and a Senior and Intermediate Basic Research Fellow. Our clinicians also hold prestigious personal awards from the BHF and NIHR.
- A £1 million BHF award over the next five years to accelerate our interdisciplinary science to world-leading status through the BHF Research Accelerator in Integrative Physiology.
- Highly successful and prestigious BHF 4-year PhD programme which has run since 2009 (award renewed in 2013 and 2017), providing training to six students per year. The BHF has committed an additional £2.5 million to our 4-year PhD programme led by Dr Elly Cartwright. The PhD programme has produced 16 doctorates with another 20 students currently studying. The funding will enable another 24 students to study for a PhD.
- Flourishing NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship and Academic Clinical Lectureship programmes (renewed in 2013 and 2017).
- 1,432 papers published since 2012, 29% of those in top 10% Scopus Sources, with 16,214 citations.
Major research activities
Cardiac physiology and heart failure
We aim to understand normal physiology of cardiac contraction and impulse conduction, and dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for cardiac remodelling in order to develop new and more effective treatment strategies for heart failure and arrhythmias.
Hypertension and its complications
Hypertension and diabetes affect 35% of the UK population and increase the risk of circulatory problems such as heart disease and stroke. We aim to understand how the structure and function of the arterial circulation determines susceptibility to disease such as these.
Human genetics of cardiovascular disease
We want to understand how genetic variation contributes to the risk of cardiovascular diseases, in order to develop novel approaches to prevention, screening, counselling and treatment.
See a selection of current research projects, which aim to make a positive impact on health and disease both nationally and globally.
Cardiotoxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Air pollution is associated with a range of adverse cardiovascular events including heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart rhythms, particularly in people already at risk for these conditions.
The mechanisms of air pollution-based cardiotoxicity are complex but can be attributed in part to nanoparticles containing PAHs, which are common pollutants in water and air.
Dr Holly Shiels’ recent studies of fish cardiomyocytes exposed to extracts of crude oil from the Deep Water Horizon spill highlight the potential for direct, deleterious effects of PAHs on cardiac Ca2+ handling proteins and K+ channel function. The aim of this BHF grant funded project is to conduct an integrated study of the potential for and mechanisms of modulation of cardiac activity by a range of PAHs at the molecular, cellular, intact heart and whole organism level.
Identifying damaging combinations of genetic variants
The advancement of new technologies has allowed the identification of a vast number of genetic variants. One of the main challenges in genetics is to differentiate the causative variants from those that have no detrimental effect.
Supported by a New Investigator Research Grant from the Medical Research Council, Dr David Talavera and colleagues are investigating whether some combinations of apparently neutral variants can explain some of the disparities between phenotype and current genetic knowledge.
Professor Craig Smith
Professor of Stroke Medicine
Craig's translational research is centred on infection, inflammation and immune responses in cerebrovascular disease. A major focus of his research is the approach to improving diagnosis, prevention and treatment of stroke-associated pneumonia.
Dr Mun-Kit Choy
Mun-Kit is a research fellow with an interest in understanding the cardiovascular system using genomic approaches. He is currently working on mechanistic insights into the non-coding genetic variants associated with congenital heart diseases.
Training future scientists and doctors
We are committed to providing the highest quality teaching and research training for postgraduate and undergraduate students and to developing the next generation of clinical and basic science cardiovascular academics.
More than 80 PhD students contribute to our vibrant and successful postgraduate community. Our PIs are involved in our prestigious postgraduate programmes, including:
BHF Research Accelerator in Integrative Physiology
Manchester has been awarded £1 million over the next five years by the BHF to accelerate our interdisciplinary science to world-leading status. This investment has been matched by the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health.
We are able to support research in our priority areas with fellowships, funded PhD studentships and by pump-priming projects.
- BHF Research Accelerator in Integrative Physiology
- BHF Accelerator Interdisciplinary PhD studentships
Our Academic Clinical Fellowship programme has been running since 2006. It allows fellows to combine clinical training in cardiology with gathering data to allow them to seek either a PhD or a Clinical Fellowship. Conversion to externally funded Fellowships is above 85%. The first appointees to our programme have now achieved honorary consultant status and senior lectureships.
We provide access to both bioscientific and clinical research programmes including cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging. A wide variety of programmes are available and our academic mentor, Tony Heagerty, is happy to introduce fellows to our PIs.