University of Leeds project to develop new treatments for heart failure awarded Heart Research UK grant

A research project at the University of Leeds aiming to identify new drug treatments for heart failure patients has been awarded a grant of almost £150,000 by national charity Heart Research UK.

The project, which will be led by Dr Scott Bowen, will investigate the causes of muscle weakness in heart failure and aims to identify new drug treatments for loss of muscle strength to improve quality of life and survival rates in heart failure patients.

Heart failure is when the heart fails to pump enough blood around the body effectively. It usually occurs because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.

Around 1 million people in the UK have heart failure and numbers are increasing. Many patients with heart failure have severe muscle weakness but no effective drug treatments are available.

Dr Bowen’s team has found that heart failure patients have higher muscle levels of a protein called ‘MuRF1’, which may have an important role in muscle weakness caused by heart failure.

When MuRF1 levels are reduced, for example by exercise training, muscle strength and mass improve in heart failure. Many heart failure patients are too ill to perform exercise training, so the team has started a new research programme to identify drugs that can block MuRF1.

They have identified one novel drug that can block MuRF1 and exciting early findings show this improves muscle strength.

Dr Bowen said: “If successful, this project will help us understand what causes muscle weakness in heart failure and identify new drug treatments for loss of muscle strength.

“It’s an incredibly exciting area of study and one that we hope will soon translate into real patient benefit. We are very grateful to Heart Research UK for allowing us to undertake this vital research.

Kate Bratt-Farrar, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK, said:We are delighted to be supporting the work of Dr Bowen and his team, which has the potential to really improve the quality of life for people living with heart failure.

“Our Translational Research Project Grants are all about bridging the gap between laboratory-based scientific research and patient care – they aim to bring the latest developments to patients as soon as possible.

“The dedication we see from UK researchers is both encouraging and impressive and we at Heart Research UK are proud to be part of it.”

The £149,959 Translational Research Project grant was awarded to the University of Leeds as part of Heart Research UK’s annual awards for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.

Last year, Heart Research UK awarded more than £1.6 million in grants for medical research projects across the UK. To date, the charity has invested more than £25 million in medical research via its grants programme.