About the Institute

about

We put our hearts and, more importantly, our world-leading expertise into discovering more about the causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the world’s biggest killer.

The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences brings together more than 20 core principal investigators, with key Honorary clinical colleagues from partner NHS Trusts and Associate investigators from other Institutes and Colleges across the University of Birmingham, to form an inter-disciplinary collaborative team able to tackle leading health issues of our time.

We are based in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences on the University campus, with colleagues in the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, as well as the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.  We benefit from the outstanding ability of Birmingham to facilitate translational science through the Birmingham Health Partners, the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR)/Wellcome Clinical Research Facility, the biobanking capacity of the Human Biomaterial Resource Centre  and the Institute of Translational Medicine located next to the Institute.

Huge strides have been made in cardiovascular medicine and research over the past 20 years, but more still needs to be done – and we are at the cutting edge. Our work is extensively collaborative – the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is a major partner – with the vision of being an internationally recognised hub of researchers translating novel experimental findings to the clinical setting.

We are doing this in a number of exciting and innovative ways:

Angiogenesis

Angiogenesis – the growth of new blood vessels from old ones – becomes a problem when it occurs in an uncontrolled manner in diabetes and in cancer, where it feeds and sustains tumours. Roy Bicknell, Professor of Functional Genomics, conducts research into identification of markers of new vessels that can be targeted, for example by anti-cancer drugs. 

Heart disease and atrial fibrillation

We are at the forefront of developing treatment – through controlled, investigator-initiated clinical trials and the drawing up of guidelines – for atrial fibrillation (AF), a cardiac condition that causes an irregular, often abnormally fast, heart rate. Professors Paulus Kirchhof and Gregory Lip lead our cutting-edge, translational research into the workings of the heart in a bid to find out more about the causes of AF and improve treatment.

Intravital microscopy - tracking cells in the blood in vivo

We are one of the few centres in the UK that can use specialist microscopy to track white cells, platelets and stem cells in the circulation in living animals.  This helps us to understand how white cells and platelets contribute to vascular disease, and how stem cells might be delivered to protect against damage to heart and vessels.

Platelets and thrombosis

We are world leaders in research into the behaviour of cells called platelets, which are instrumental in the formation of blood clots that play important roles in causing thrombosis, heart attacks and strokes. Led by BHF Professor Steve Watson and BHF Senior Research Fellow Professor Yotis Senis, our focus is to develop ways of preventing platelets forming clots in the wrong place.

White blood cells and vascular disease

We are internationally renowned for our research into how white blood cells move from the blood into the wall of blood vessels, using artificial blood vessels to mimic in the lab what happens in the human body. Over time, the build-up of white cells along with fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply and can result in damage leading to heart attacks and strokes. The underlying process of inflammation in the blood vessels is one of our areas of specialism, led by Professors Gerard Nash and Ed Rainger. We are working on developing novel agents that modify the response of both platelets and white blood cells.