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Heart Research UK grant for University of Cambridge’s Prof Ziad Mallat will investigate route to tackling leading cause of death globally

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A research grant of £190,000 will help the University of Cambridge’s Professor Ziad Mallat investigate a potential route towards a new treatment for the leading cause of death globally.

Atherosclerosis is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits within blood vessel walls and inflammation that results from tour immune system’s long-term over-reaction to them.

Professor Ziad Mallat in the Department of Medicine. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Professor Ziad Mallat in the Department of Medicine. Picture: Keith Heppell.

There are still no successful treatments to target this process which, by narrowing blood vessels that supply the heart and brain, reduces blood flow and leads to heart attacks and strokes.

Prof Mallat is exploring whether interleukin-2 is capable of decreasing inflammation in blood vessels.

This important messenger protein helps regulate the body’s immune system and has been shown In laboratory models to reduce atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.

Prof Mallat’s team successfully used interleukin-2 for the first time in patients with heart attacks in a previous clinical trial, which showed it was safe and increased the number of blood immune cells that suppress inflammation.

Prof Ziad Mallat (54156101)
Prof Ziad Mallat (54156101)

The new study will investigate whether interleukin-2 can also suppress inflammation in the narrowed arteries. If so, this could lead to better outcomes for patients.

Patients will be given interleukin-2 before planned surgery to remove blood vessel narrowings in their neck blood vessels - a normal clinical procedure.

The removed narrowings will then be tested using single-cell RNA sequencing to see whether interleukin-2 has successfully reduced inflammation and disease progression.

It is the first time this technique has been used in drug development for patients with heart disease.

Professor Mallat said: “If our investigation proves successful, this will be an important step towards developing interleukin-2 into a potential treatment to target inflammation in narrowed blood vessels.”

Professor Ziad Mallat and some of his team. Picture: Keith Heppell
Professor Ziad Mallat and some of his team. Picture: Keith Heppell

Kate Bratt-Farrar, chief executive at Heart Research UK, said: “We’re pleased to award this grant to Professor Mallat and his team, whose research could help patients with cardiovascular disease live longer and healthier lives.”

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