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New research grant looks at resolving irregular heartbeats

Hand holding an electrocardiogram

An OU researcher has received almost £100,000 to study irregular heartbeats and to propose a solution to prevent them.

According to Dr Daniel Johnson, Lecturer in Health Sciences in the OU’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to the formation of stroke and heart failure. AF remains the most common cardiac arrhythmia and despite recent technological and pharmacological advances, the treatment of AF remains insufficient.

There are multiple factors that increase the likelihood of a person suffering from AF, with obesity and genetic predisposition being amongst the most common. There are also specific cells that may trigger AF.

The funding, which is a Springboard Award, received from The Academy of Medical Sciences, will allow Dr Johnson and his team to collaborate with the University of Manchester and the Biomedical Research Foundation, Academy of Athens, over a two-year period, to use various techniques to investigate how specific risk factors like obesity, may influence arrhythmia generation in specific heart cells which appear to be more liable to trigger AF.

The data obtained will provide novel insights that could ultimately be targeted to prevent AF, as well as enabling patient stratification for treatment.

Dr Johnson said:

“We believe data obtained in this study will aid to improve treatment of AF, one of the biggest cardiovascular problems to face a generation.

“The hope is it will provide mechanistic insights which may lead to development of novel drug targets. This grant will literally “Springboard” me back into the laboratory and provides me with the opportunity and funding to get my lab off the ground.“

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