Aberdeen Cardiovascular and Diabetes Centre, University of Aberdeen
The 22nd Annual Meeting of the Scottish Cardiovascular Forum (SCF) was held on February 2nd 2019, at The Centre for Health Science in Inverness and was hosted by the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The meeting focused on a wide variety of cardiovascular subjects including blood flow, heart failure, and atherosclerotic plaque formation. The welcoming and encouraging atmosphere of the SCF Annual Meeting makes it a great setting for early career scientists to learn and share ideas.
The key-note speaker, Professor Damian Bailey, head of the Neurovascular Research Laboratory at the University of South Wales, opened the meeting by discussing oxygen supply to the brain. In his address, he discussed the adaptive capacity of our brains to overcome episodes of extremely low levels of oxygen.
After this stimulating kick off, the nominated early stage PhD students competed for the award for the best three-minute oral PhD presentation. The varied topics included modulators of heart failure, new digital tools and interventions for clinicians, aortic valve stenosis, and pulmonary hypertension.
After the early stage PhD talks, Dr Mark MacAskill from the University of Edinburgh presented his work on developing a novel preclinical model of atherosclerotic plaque microcalcification. His approach on plaque imaging can reveal intraplaque microcalcification using in vivo and ex vivo Positron Emission Tomography imaging. Next, Dr Guy Bewick from the University of Aberdeen explained his work on baroreceptor activity and its potential as a drug treatment to reduce hypertension.
During the lunchbreak there was time for the conference poster session. A broad range of topics and techniques were covered on the posters, leading to engaging discussions between the presenters and the audience. After the lunchbreak, it was time for the final year PhD students competing for the Roger Wadsworth prize for Best Presentation. At the start of the session, Professor Ian Megson from the University of the Highlands and Islands gave a brief speech outlining the life, successes, and inspiring academic legacy of Professor Wadsworth who worked at the University of Strathclyde for most of his academic life. The nominated final year PhD presenters covered a wide variety of topics with talks on cardiac remodelling during the development of acute heart failure known as Takotsubo syndrome, cell proliferation observed in pulmonary hypertension, oral microbiome and the effects of dietary nitrate supplementation, and links between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The nominees were Nadine Godsman from the University of Aberdeen, Andrew McNair from Glasgow Caledonian University, Mia Burleigh from the University of the West of Scotland, and Maria Luisa Fiorello from the University of the Highlands and Islands. It was my pleasure to have also been nominated to present my PhD project research during this session. My presentation focussed on a novel protein target to reduce plaque formation and lipid deposition in experimental atherosclerosis. By knockout of the protein called phosphoprotein enriched in astrocytes (PEA-15) in ApoE knockout mice, plaque formation is reduced, despite an increased body weight gain owing to a high fat diet. This results from an increased efficiency in lipid storage in the adipose tissue, protecting the mice from lipid deposition in the arterial wall and liver. This project is supported by the British Heart Foundation.
The subsequent session of Oral Communications was opened by Dr Junxi Wu (University of Edinburgh) presenting his research to engineer blood vessels using a cell moulding method with human vascular smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts. Mr Tanguy Bléhaut (University of Edinburgh) spoke about his work on utilizing the atheroprotective properties of H2S using TST knockout mice. Next, Richard Lightbody, PhD student from Glasgow Caledonian University presented his work on identifying miRNA sequences during the process of foam cell formation. Finally, Dr Nimesh Mody (University of Aberdeen) presented his research on inhibition of the ceramide biosynthesis during the development of atherosclerosis using fenretinide treatment.
Closing off a day of talks and posters, was the award ceremony during which Dr Moira Wadsworth, Professor Roger Wadsworths’ wife, presented the prize for the best final year PhD presentation. I was happily surprised when I was called forward to accept the prize, even more so because all talks were excellent and well presented by my colleagues! Um-May Sumya, PhD student from the Aberdeen Cardiovascular and Diabetes Centre, University of Aberdeen, received the prize for best three-minute presentation in the category for early PhD students. Her PhD research has found that restricting dietary zinc led to reduced platelet aggregation and delayed clot growth in blood samples of healthy volunteers. The SCF poster prize was awarded to Dr James Hislop and Dr Dawn Thompson (University of Aberdeen) for their poster presentation of their work on dampening pro-inflammatory mechanisms to promote tissue repair, mainly through activation of the G protein-coupled receptor called formyl peptide receptor 2. The prize in the final category, best presenter during the Oral Communications, was awarded to Tanguy Bléhaut (University of Edinburgh). The abstracts of all of the presentations and posters will be published in a supplement of the BMJ’s Heart journal.
Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to the Wadsworth family and the organizing committee members of the SCF event for an informative and great day. Next year’s Annual Meeting will be held at the University of Strathclyde, so keep an eye out for updates on www.scf.strath.ac.uk.