Edinburgh cardiologist Dr Marc Dweck has received a prestigious award for his British Heart Foundation-funded research, pioneering new methods for imaging the heart.
PET/CT imaging can be used to measure disease activity as it is occurring in the heart with the potential to identify patients at high risk of heart attacks and to help develop new treatments for patients with heart valve disease.
A BHF intermediate clinical research fellow, a senior lecturer and consultant cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Dweck was yesterday awarded the Michael Davies Early Career Award at the British Cardiovascular Society’s annual conference.
Dr Dweck said: “I feel very fortunate to have been awarded such a prestigious award, and grateful for the backing that the BHF has provided me and my research programme.
“I am now more determined than ever to move forward and develop new ways of imaging the heart and to improve how we treat patients with heart disease.”
When fatty deposits, known as plaques, build up in the arteries and rupture, this can cause a heart attack. Sadly, on average, 575 people in Scotland die from coronary heart disease every month, mostly due to a heart attack.
Thanks to funding from the BHF, Dr Dweck has discovered that PET/CT imaging can identify plaques with increased disease activity. Early data suggests that these plaques may be more likely to rupture.
Ongoing studies are testing whether this approach may be useful clinically for identifying patients who will go on to have a heart attack.
Similarly, this imaging technique can be used in aortic stenosis (the most common form of valve disease and most common indication for heart valve surgery) where the major outflow valve of the heart becomes narrowed and obstructs flow out of the heart.
PET imaging can again be used to measure disease activity in these valves and to predict how quickly patients will proceed towards surgery.
Thanks to a £977,000 grant from the BHF, Dr Dweck is now using this approach to test whether new drug therapies can successfully halt the disease and avoid the need for heart surgery altogether.
Dr Dweck said: “Cardiovascular imaging is an exciting area of heart research and can be used to generate beautiful images of the heart and to study what is happening in the diseased heart with great accuracy.
“I believe we are at the threshold of a new era where precise imaging techniques such as CT, MRI and PET will be used widely to guide the treatment of patients.
“Much work is still required, not least demonstrating that this strategy improves the outcomes of our patients and is cost-effective.”