Philanthropic support from Mr Safwan Sobhan will accelerate work to diagnose and treat people with high risk of coronary heart disease.
Mr Sobhan’s generous contribution will support research on heart disease risk led by Dr Ramzi Khamis, a Reader in Cardiology and BHF fellow at Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute and a consultant interventional cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, with tens of millions of people living with the condition. In the UK, someone dies from a heart attack or disease every eight minutes.
Dr Khamis’s research group focuses on developing biomarkers for cardiovascular risk assessment, improving understanding of the role of antibodies in atherosclerosis and the use of imaging technology for detecting high-risk atherosclerotic plaques. As well as contributing to core research costs in Dr Khamis’s group, Mr Sobhan’s gift will establish a five-year Fellowship for a postdoctoral researcher and enable the recruitment of a laboratory technician to support Dr Khamis and the Fellow with experimental work.
A more accurate picture of cardiovascular risk
Currently, an individual’s risk of heart attack or other serious cardiovascular disease is assessed by looking at lifestyle factors, such as being overweight or smoking. While these risk factors are important, researchers are looking for biomarkers that can give a more accurate picture of someone’s personal level of risk. A biomarker is a measurable substance or characteristic in the body that provides information about health. Dr Khamis and his team have discovered a number of biomarkers for cardiac risk and are now developing clinical applications for these. The hope is ultimately to be able to develop non-invasive tests that can accurately measure an individual’s cardiovascular risk.
One area of research that will benefit particularly from Mr Sobhan’s support is work aimed at developing methods for detecting rupture-prone atherosclerotic plaques, which can cause major cardiovascular problems. An atherosclerotic plaque is a build-up of a sticky substance in the arteries. While some plaques remain stable, others can rupture, causing a blood clot to form, blocking the artery and leading to serious complications like heart attack or stroke.
Dr Khamis and his team are developing ways to detect rupture-prone plaques, a capability that does not exist at present. This would help assess an individual's risk of serious heart problems more accurately and could lead to the development of new treatments for unstable plaques. They are now exploring how advanced imaging techniques, like infrared fluorescence imaging and positron emission tomography, can be used to measure the levels of oxidised cholesterol in individual plaques and ultimately to identify the riskiest ones. The team have also found that the presence of certain antibodies – proteins produced by the immune system that can be detected in the blood – indicate a greater level of protection from heart attacks. By combining this blood analysis with imaging technology, the goal is to identify those patients most at risk of heart attack or other serious complications.
An incredible opportunity
Dr Khamis said: “Mr Sobhan’s generosity will have a huge impact on our research, enabling us to better understand the connection between the immune system and the development of atherosclerosis, and to identify new biomarkers for higher-risk plaques. It also represents an incredible opportunity for a postdoctoral fellow and a research technician to join our team and to make a tangible contribution to work in this new and exciting area of research. My team and I are incredibly grateful to Mr Sobhan for his generosity and his philanthropic commitment to improving diagnosis and care in cardiovascular medicine.”
"Mr Sobhan’s remarkable contribution will enable major strides forward in Dr Khamis’s research on atherosclerosis." Professor Clare Lloyd Interim Head, National Heart and Lung Institute
Professor Clare Lloyd, Interim Head of the National Heart and Lung Institute, said: “We are immensely grateful for this £1 million donation for heart disease research at the National Heart and Lung Institute, one of the world’s greatest concentrations of expertise in cardiovascular and respiratory science. Mr Sobhan’s remarkable contribution will enable major strides forward in Dr Khamis’s research on atherosclerosis, enabling us to develop better treatments and to identify those most at risk of serious complications.”
Mr Sobhan said: “Dr Khamis and his team are making discoveries that have the potential to benefit many thousands of people living with cardiovascular disease both in the UK and internationally. I am pleased to offer my support to this important work and to help provide opportunities for the next generation of cardiology researchers."
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