Our established multi-disciplinary scientific excellence in atrial fibrillation and heart failure

 AF group photo

We are shaped by our genetic code, our environment, and by our actions. This is not only true for human beings, but also for every cardiac cell and for the shape of our hearts. Our multidimensional research aims to understand how our genes, environment, lifestyle, and the constant activity of the heart interact to shape the function of our hearts. 

We use these insights to understand the factors which lead to heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and sudden death. Our research cluster is a strong team of experienced clinical and non-clinical academics with multidisciplinary expertise in epidemiological research, data analysis, clinical trials, and translational (laboratory and clinical) science. Together, we develop approaches for integrated models of care and precision medicine for patients with these conditions.

Integrated care - Atrial fibrillation is found in 3% of the UK and European population and is a major driver of stroke, cardiovascular hospitalisations and death. Our research into mechanisms, complications, and treatment of atrial fibrillation has transformed clinical management of this condition. The University of Birmingham was key to developing clinical risk scores that have been adopted worldwide to identify patients with atrial fibrillation requiring oral anticoagulation for stroke prevention, and those at increased risk of bleeding. We have also shown how heart failure and atrial fibrillation interact, influencing the consequences for treatment of these conditions, and have defined a clinical role for short-term antiarrhythmic drug therapy. This research has informed current international guidelines for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation. In addition, by the use of online tools, we are supporting, educating and empowering patients with atrial fibrillation and their families.  We actively involve patients in the design and management of our research.

Understanding the beating heart. We apply state-of-the-art research methodologies to human hearts, genetically modified murine models and heart cells, to better understand how disease processes alter normal heart function. Together with our international collaborators and colleagues at the University of Birmingham, we have developed novel tools for measuring and mapping electrical and contractile cardiac function, and for isolation of cells from the heart. Translational research uses these insights to identify novel markers for specific disease processes using genetic markers, blood biomarkers, ECG parameters, and clinical information. We test evolving mechanistic hypotheses in large data sets available to our data scientists. Our discovery science thereby enables the development of novel approaches for precision medicine in heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke prevention.

Precision medicine. Even on optimal therapy, cardiovascular deaths, heart failure, acute hospitalisations, and cognitive decline remain common in patients with atrial fibrillation.  We develop precision medicine approaches tailoring specific treatments to individual patients to improve prevention and treatment of these conditions. Working together with the major NHS trusts across Birmingham (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, and Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust) with strong links to Birmingham Health Partners, we develop and evaluate precision medicine approaches to improve patient care.