Dr Richard Siow, King’s College London
Summary: This project involved an advanced imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET) and studied a new ‘probe’ which may be useful in imaging human heart and blood vessel cells.
An exciting finding was that the PET imaging compound had ‘cardioprotective’ effects. This compound has already been shown to protect against degenerative conditions of the brain and an early clinical trial is taking place in Australia to test it as a treatment for motor neurone disease. In this HRUK-funded study, Dr Siow and his team showed, for the first time, that the compound also protects heart muscle and blood vessel cells from damaging processes, called oxidative stress, that contribute to heart disease.
Importantly, they also studied the behaviour of cardiovascular cells when exposed to different oxygen levels in the lab. Most scientific studies take place in room air which means that cells are exposed to higher oxygen levels than in the body. Using a special oxygen-regulated workstation purchased with HRUK funding, this research highlights the importance of maintaining the correct biological oxygen levels when studying cardiovascular cells in the lab, to reflect lifelike conditions.