Amy Dorward, a PhD student at the University of St Andrew’s School of Medicine, has begun a research fellow post at the University, a 3-year project grant funded by the British Heart Foundation. Amy, whose ambition is to have a career in cardiovascular research, is currently completing her PhD thesis, supervised by Dr Samantha Pitt. Her PhD research, which was also funded by the British Heart Foundation, focused on the role of metal ions in heart failure. This research found that cellular zinc not only plays an important role in shaping calcium dynamics but in regulating how the heart works. Amy worked on an intracellular calcium release channel, first discovered in 1998 by the Takeshima group in Japan. Her research, and the work of others in the group, showed this channel is modulated by zinc, which is noteworthy given that dysregulated zinc movement can be connected to cardiac dysfunction. Following this finding, Amy’s post-doctoral research will aim to further investigate this channel, and in particular how it relates to arrhythmia and cardiac dysfunction.
This is an important area of research as the heart has a limited ability to regenerate and heal after damage, so current treatments can only manage symptoms. Identifying how damage occurs and how to prevent it is key in developing more effective heart failure treatments. According to the British Heart Foundation, there are more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year in the UK due to heart attacks. Around 1.4 million people in the UK today have survived a heart attack and more than 900,000 people in the UK are living with heart failure. Research developments in the area have been substantial over the last number of decades and have saved thousands of lives, but future research will improve these statistics even further. The British Heart Foundation are committed to research initiatives like Amy’s, which will help to beat heart disease forever.
For Amy, this opportunity is noteworthy, enabling her to learn new research techniques, identify future research opportunities and progress in her career as a cardiovascular researcher. Amy said “it’s such an honour and privilege to be continuing my research as a part of Dr Pitt’s team. Thank you to Dr Pitt for her constant support and guidance, and to the British Heart Foundation for the fantastic opportunity to further this exciting, cutting-edge research. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to all the supporters of the British Heart Foundation – without you, my research, and the research of many others would not be possible”.