Research project funded by St George’s Hospital Charity has innovative results

20 January 2020
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A pioneering research study into the treatment of Atrial Fibrillation hopes to improve treatment and patient outcomes.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia, affecting more than 1% of the general population. Arrhythmia is a group of medical conditions where the heart beats irregularly, too slow, or too fast. AF interferes with the blood pumping function of the heart and increases the risk of developing severe complications such as blood clots and stroke. Unfortunately, due to our ageing population, the incidences of AF has continued to rise despite progress in diagnosis and management, with a three-fold increase expected by 2050. Treatment of AF relies on controlling the heart rate and rhythm and on reducing the risk of developing blood clots.

Due to this increased prevalence of the condition, St George’s Hospital Charity was thrilled to fund a research project aimed at identifying therapeutic strategies to improve AF management and outcomes. This project is led by Ingrid Dumitriu, a Reader in Cardiovascular Immunology and part of St George’s University of London’s Cardiology Clinical Academic Group. Ingrid gave us some more information on the work her team have been doing:

“Our project is the first to investigate the role of T lymphocytes, cells of the immune system, in patients with AF. Lymphocytes are important in the process of inflammation that has recently been implicated in AF. Some T lymphocytes promote inflammation (harmful), while others prevent inflammation (protective). In a preliminary study we have identified that in patients with AF the balance between harmful and protective T lymphocytes is disturbed in favour of inflammation. We are investigating the mechanisms responsible for the changes in harmful and protective T lymphocytes in patients with AF. This will allow us to identify targets that could be blocked with drugs to restore the balance between these two types of lymphocytes and improve the current treatment and outcome of patients with AF.”

“The pump-priming funds from the St George’s Hospital Charity were used to carry out the pilot work that formed the basis of a successful application for a 3-year project grant to the British Heart Foundation, which is ongoing.

The data will inform future research studies and may lead to more specific and effective therapeutic strategies to improve patient outcomes in AF.”

Through their investigations, the research team are trying to identify the mechanism responsible for the expansion of pro-inflammatory T lymphocytes in patients with AF as well as distinguishing the characteristics of regulatory T lymphocytes. As Ingrid mentions, the study will support future investigation which will hopefully lead to in an improvement in results for patients, such as the delivery of specialist health care provisions and meeting the changing needs for our ageing population.

St George’s Hospital Charity are committed to supporting our hospitals and University to undertake pioneering research and invest in research training for the benefit of patients. We have been able to fund this project thanks to our amazing supporters who care so much and want to make St George’s and Queen Mary’s hospitals better places for the whole community.

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