Cardiology in space, the link between fat and vein function, genetics of heart failure in pregnant women and much, much more.

Highlights from the first day of the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester.

Will the right (cardiovascular) stuff get humans to Mars?

Today was the first day of the British Cardiovascular Society’s annual conference in Manchester. In the first presentation Dr Benjamin Levine asked “Will the right (cardiovascular) stuff get humans to Mars?”

The cardiovascular challenges facing would-be travellers to the Red Planet are huge. Without the pull of gravity providing resistance to their movement astronauts rapidly lose muscle mass and their strength decreases. This muscle lot isn’t just in the arms and legs — without lots of daily exercise the volume of muscle in the heart can also decrease. This muscle loss could impair a space traveller’s movement when they are again exposed to gravity upon landing on mars.

More than this, a two year mission to Mars would expose astronauts to radiation equivalent to 18,000 chest x-rays. This level of radiation exposure may accelerate the development of atherosclerosis.

Dr Levine presenting at BCS 2017. The slide shows the Voyager 1 Blue Marble image of earth. Image Credit Marc Dweck

Perhaps though, the biggest challenges to reaching the Red Planet lie not in the vulnerable physiology of astronauts or the considerable engineering challenges of creating craft to carry them through the solar system but in humankind’s self destructive tendencies. Dr Levine ended his talk with a quote from Karl Sagan:

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Mancxit: Looking in on a health system that’s leading the way and putting patients at its heart

You don’t have to be from Greater Manchester to be aware of their innovative approach being taken towards health and social care.

At this years British Cardiovascular Disease (BCS) conference, Professor Huon Gray, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, introduced the session by stating that; “Lots of people are looking at what’s going on in Manchester and the magnitude of what’s happening here.”

So what’s occurring to transform the way healthcare is delivered for the 2.8 million people living in the city? Find out in our blog piece.

NHS Reform

A morning session discussed innovation in the NHS and focused on trial design, technology and big data. Professor John Cleland described how he feels that in many clinical studies there is too much focus on marginal effect sizes, and that has led to very expensive trials with thousands of patients.

Professor Cleland argued that the research community should be focusing on big effect sizes that would actually make a measurable difference to health. Trials to look at interventions with a big effect size could be smaller and so less expensive than trials looking at smaller effects. He also argued that there should be a focus on longer studies looking at effects of a treatment over a long period of time.

Professor Martin Cowie spoke about digital health and concluded that it represented ‘hope with hype’ but that one of the most significant changes that could be made would be to integrate m-health data with electronic records.

Professor Tony Young has been charged by Sir Bruce Keogh with bringing innovation into the NHS at a large scale. Professor Young’s most exciting initiative is a clinical entrepreneur programme that allows trainee doctors time off to pursue start-ups, and connects them with business contacts, venture capital and investors. So far it has been very successful with dozens of start-ups involved and three attracting more than £10 million of investment. There has also been a lot of international interest and similar schemes are now planned in other countries.

Genetics of heart failure in pregnant women

A new genetic discovery could explain the cause of a mysterious and potentially-deadly heart condition which affects women during or just after pregnancy. The findings, presented today at the conference, could help doctors identify and treat women who are at risk. Read more about the genetics of heart failure in pregnant women in our news section.

Cutting-edge scan reveals new drug target for heart attack treatment

Every day 190 people in the UK die from a heart attack. Researchers from the University of Oxford have used a scanning method to develop a new drug which may help hearts heal. The scientists unveiled their promising work on a new drug to help patients who have suffered a heart attack. The BHF-funded team described how an experimental drug called 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) may improve heart function after a heart attack.

You can read more about h-MRI and 2-deoxyglucose on our website.

Iron deficiency in heart failure patients contributes to poor patient outcomes and care costs

Patients admitted to hospital with acute heart failure who exhibit iron deficiency (ID) tend to have a longer and more expensive hospital stay and a greater likelihood of readmission to hospital, according to analysis of Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) in England presented today at the conference. Read more about iron deficiency in heart failure.

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