Dr Brian Halliday, specialist registrar at Royal Brompton Hospital and clinical lecturer at Imperial College’s National Heart and Lung Institute, has been awarded £1.1 million in research funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to study a possible treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
DCM is a heart condition where the left ventricle of the heart becomes dilated (stretched and thin), which makes it harder to pump blood around the body. It is also one of the most common reasons people need a heart transplant and is often inherited, although it can also develop due to excessive alcohol intake or during, and shortly after, pregnancy.
The funding will go towards Dr Halliday’s clinical trial to investigate if a bespoke version of Coenzyme Q10, called MitoQ, improves the function of the heart. Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule that occurs naturally in the body and is an antioxidant, meaning that it prevents oxidation (a process that damages cells). If cell damage is reduced, cells can work more efficiently. Developed by world-renowned mitochondrial biologists, MitoQ is easily absorbed by the mitochondria (the part of a cell that creates adenosine triphosphate, also known as energy or ATP) and it is hoped that this will reduce any stress or cell damage, therefore improving mitochondrial function.
Dr Halliday and his team will use MRI scans to evaluate if treatment with MitoQ improves the structure and therefore the function of the heart. The researchers will also use phosphorus-31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a specialist imaging technique that will allow them to measure the levels of energy in the heart. Higher levels mean the heart can pump blood around the body effectively.
Dr Halliday said: “I am thrilled to be awarded this funding, the more clinical trials we can do, the more likely we are to find new therapies to treat cardiomyopathies. I am also very grateful to teams at Guy’s and St Thomas’, Barts and Hammersmith hospital for their support in this trial.”
Dr Halliday’s previous research on DCM remission and relapse won the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity’s cardiovascular research award. This research showed that patients who were in DCM remission (no longer experiencing symptoms) should still continue to take their drugs to avoid a possible relapse. Dr Halliday has also recently been awarded an academic grant from the University of Oxford and the European Society of Cardiology to study for a Masters in clinical trials.
Teams at Royal Brompton Hospital provide a comprehensive inherited cardiac conditions service for patients from before birth to old age. Sophisticated genetic testing is used to identify inherited conditions and if found, all family members can then be screened. Clinical geneticists, physicians from a wide range of medical specialities and an advanced nursing team work together to ensure that patients receive professional advice, both before testing is offered and after a result has been received.