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An Oxford team from the Centre for Medicines Development, Department of Physiology Anatomy and Genetics and Radcliffe Department of Medicine led by Professor Jagdeep Nanchahal at the Kennedy Institute has been awarded a Wellcome Innovator Award to develop a first in class therapeutic aimed at regenerating heart muscle after heart attack.

A digital image of a human heart

Each year approximately 200,000 people in the UK and 800,000 in USA experience heart attacks due to a block in one of the major arteries supplying the heart. This often leads to death of the affected muscle, which is replaced by scar tissue. A severely damaged heart is no longer able to pump blood effectively, leading to heart failure. Patients with heart failure have a 5 years survival of 60%, worse than many cancers.

The Welcome Innovator Award will support research to further engineer a modified version of HMGB1 protein that occurs naturally in the body to retain the its regenerative properties whilst removing pro-inflammatory activity. This modified HMGB1 will be used to promote repair of cardiac muscle tissue after injury by targeting the body’s repair mechanisms.

The study builds upon previous work from Jagdeep’s lab showing HMGB1 promotes the repair and regeneration of bone, blood and skeletal muscle tissue after injury by acting on resident stem cells.

Jagdeep explains, “Whilst most patients who suffer a heart attack now survive the initial event due to huge advances in healthcare, there is no approved therapeutic for promoting regeneration. If successful, this could lead to a significant improvement in patient outcomes”.

The funding from the Wellcome will support a team of researchers based at the Kennedy Institute and Centre for Medicines Development.

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