British Cardiovascular Society Conference 2016: Day 2

The highlights from BCS day 2.

We review the second day of the 2016 British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference at Manchester Central. There were plenty of awards to give out and some fascinating sessions on topics including the genetics of high cholesterol and the study of embryos.

Award-winning research

Yesterday afternoon Dr Marc Dweck, a BHF Research Fellow, was the proud recipient of the Michael Davies Early Career Award for his pioneering work on imaging at the University of Edinburgh.

He talked us through how he and his team have been looking at different imaging techniques, such as CT, MRI and PET, and investigating how they can be used in new ways for different kinds of heart conditions. His talk was accompanied by some cool slides (sadly not done justice in the iPhone photos we managed to get).

Dr Dweck has been funded by the BHF for many years and has recently spent time working in New York. This is just one of several awards he’s won for his imaging work.

Even more awards

In the evening our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, presented awards for the best clinical poster presentations at the conference.

Dr Jagdeep Singh and Dr Bayan Soujeri won the “Heart failure” category for their presentation on their research into the heart health check-ups that breast cancer survivors were not always getting. Breast cancer treatments are now highly effective but can be highly damaging to the heart and cause heart failure.

Dr Gherardo Finocchario from St George’s University of London won for “Best cardiac rhythm management presentation” and Dr Tiffany Patterson of King’s College London won for “Best Stable IHD/Prevention/Hypertension/Lipids presentation”. Dr Patterson is a BHF Clinical Research Training Fellow — your donations are helping her to carry out a PhD project alongside her medical career. Dr Finocchario’s research has benefited from BHF funding in the labs at St George’s too.

The presentation winners with Professor Jeremy Pearson

Improving cardiac arrest survival rates

This morning Professor Gavin Perkins talked about cardiac arrests that happen outside of hospitals — he leads a BHF-funded audit of this issue, at the University of Warwick. Around 28,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in the UK each year, 80 per cent of them in the home, but only 8 per cent of these people survive. Our Nation of Lifesavers programme is seeking to teach the nation CPR to improve that statistic and ensure many more lives are saved.

For those who do make it to hospital, there’s currently widespread regional variations in the number that then survive to be discharged. He argued that this indicated a potential need for a national framework to provide adequate care, or the introduction of specialist centres that are specifically geared up to treat out of hospital cardiac arrest sufferers.

Professor Perkins also discussed research which highlighted the crucial nature of the emergency dispatcher role and how, if efficiency is improved, survival rates can increase. If cardiac arrest is identified quickly by the dispatcher.

Fast progress on a mutated gene

Later, the recently retired BHF Professor Steve Humphries, who is a world-reknowned expert on the inherited heart condition Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH), gave a presentation about the remarkable case of the PCSK9 gene mutation, one of the rarer types of gene mutations that cause FH.

The PCSK9 gene was only discovered in 2003, but just ten years later patients with this mutation can be identified and treated. He and others spoke about cholesterol-lowering monoclonal antibody therapy and how this might be used as a treatment to complement statins for those with more severe cases of FH.

The history of conception

Dr Alice Roberts spoke about her book which weaves together embryology and evolution. Her central question was ‘How on earth did all of the complex life on Earth evolve from single celled organisms?’

She spoke about how, throughout history, philosophers and scientists have puzzled over the question of conception — where do babies come from? From Aristotle, who believed that conception happened as a result of the mixing of blood and semen, in the 4th century BC to 17th century scientists who believed that human sperm contained an entire ‘pre-formed’ baby.

She then talked about the incredible process that the human heart goes through to form whilst a baby is in the womb, describing the process as “like trying to renovate a seriously listed building”.

Tomorrow we’ll give you a taster of our Reflections of Research science image competition and more news from the conference’s final day.