A heart attack is caused by a blockage of one or more coronary arteries of the heart, which prevents blood and oxygen reaching the heart muscle.
Treatment for heart attacks include reopening the blocked coronary artery with stents or bypass surgery, though there are limitations with these treatments. Reopening coronary arteries is often insufficient to achieve a complete salvage of the heart, and the damage caused by a heart attack can lead to heart failure.
A potential new treatment is to increase the blood flow to damaged heart tissue by using drugs that encourage the body to grow new blood vessels.
The project will be led by Professor Paolo Madeddu , Chair of Experimental Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Bristol, who, along with his team, discovered that an excess of a protein called BACH1 can prevent blood vessel formation.
Professor Madeddu and his team hope to show that the use of BACH1 inhibitors can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. If successful, this would be the first step in developing them into drug treatments for heart disease. This would result in improved quality of life and reduced risk of developing heart failure.
Also, this treatment may benefit people suffering from other diseases where new vessel growth is needed, such as poor blood circulation in the legs, or damage to other organs, such as the kidney, brain and eyes.
Professor Madeddu said: "The use of BACH1 inhibitors is a very promising area of study that promises to have a huge impact on the way that we treat a wide range of conditions.
"If we are successful, the door will be opened for a whole new method of treating people who have suffered damage to their hearts. The ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels will allow us to drastically improve the quality of life of patients who may be at risk of heart failure.
"We’re very grateful to Heart Research UK for allowing us to undertake this research."
Kate Bratt-Farrar, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK , said: "We are delighted to be supporting the research of Prof Madeddu and his team, which has the potential to significantly reduce the risk of people developing heart failure after a heart attack.
"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 Heart Research UK is so proud to be part of it."
The £107,726 Translational Research Project grant was awarded to the University of Bristol 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.