The 24th Scottish Cardiovascular Forum meeting took place on the 3-5th of February 2021 via the Zoom platform. Similar to other conferences and meetings this year, the conference had to be hosted virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, although the virtual format did not allow social interactions, the meeting was a great success as the organisers had included space for questions and discussion sessions for the participants throughout each of the days. The meeting was well attended and included research from Universities across the UK, such as Strathclyde, Ulster, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
The first two days (the 3rd and the 4th of February) hosted the “poster presentation” section, where PhD students and early career researchers presented their work in a few minutes, highlighting the key points of their projects. This section included a wide spectrum of research focusing on understanding the cellular and molecular events leading to cardiovascular pathologies, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, hypoxia, diabetes and pulmonary arterial hypertension. The nominated committee for the poster prize award selected 6 posters for a final presentation on the last day of the meeting.
At the start of the conference, Dr Susan Currie, Chair of the Scottish Cardiovascular Forum, introduced the speakers of the day, providing an overview and the main purpose of the annual meetings which aim to increase local networking, collaborations and interactions between Universities and research centres across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. Prof. Stuart Nicklin from Glasgow University was the first speaker and gave the first keynote lecture of the day. His research focuses on understanding the renin-angiotensin axis during vascular remodelling. In particular, Prof. Nicklin highlighted the important role of Angiotensin I-9 (Ang 1-9) during the early remodelling in vein grafting failure and neointimal formation. Following the keynote talk, Oral Communication session 1 and 3 included 5 minute talks from early career researchers selected for their abstract, followed by 10 minutes for Q&A. The oral presentations were judged by the committee and this included the winner of this section, Dr. Martina Rooney from Ulster University. Dr. Rooney’s talk focused on the impact of a specific polymorphism of the gene encoding for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, associated with high risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, on the development of high blood pressure.
The Oral Communications section included a specific session dedicated to the Roger Wadsworth Award competition, where 4 PhD students in the final year of doctoral studies, were selected based on their curriculum, previous awards achieved, publications and abstract submitted. Finalists included Adewale Akinosun from the University of the Highlands and Islands whose talk was entitled ‘Cardiovascular disease behavioural risk factor modification interventions: defining impactful cluster target(s)’, Ben Veerman from the University of Strathclyde who spoke about Novel off-target effects of doxorubicin on cardiovascular gap junctional proteins and Mhairi Paul from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen who spoke about her work investigating Wnt Signalling in a two-hit experimental model of Diastolic Heart Failure. The quality of science and presentation skills of all the selected candidates challenged the committee’s final decision. It was a great honour for me to be selected as the winner of this session.
My PhD project and presentation focused on understanding the role and function of a conserved long noncoding RNA- microRNA axis, CARMN-miR143/145, during the development of human and mouse atherosclerosis. During my PhD I have shown that the loss of the expression of this axis is an early event during the development of atherosclerosis, which leads to dysregulated smooth muscle cells in vitro, advanced plaques and accelerated atherosclerosis in vivo.
Following the lunch break, the 6 finalists selected for poster presentations gave an overview of their posters of whom the PhD student Karla O’Neill from Queen’s University in Belfast, won the first prize. In her poster, Karla explained the importance of Nox4 signalling as regulator of hyperglycaemia in ischaemic cardiovascular diseases. Dr Maurice O’Kane, Clinical Director of the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (NICRN), was the second keynote speaker of the day. His talk highlighted the importance of the management and study of biological mechanisms underlying familial hypercholesterolemia. Finally, the prize winners were announced by Dr Currie. Normally Dr Moira Wadsworth, Professor Wadsworth’s wife, presents the winner of the Roger Wadsworth Award. However, due to the virtual nature of this year’s meeting, this presentation was not possible. Dr Wadsworth was in attendance at the meeting and hopefully next year, will be able to present the prize in person again.
The 24th Scottish Cardiovascular Forum was a great success, rich in high-quality cardiovascular science and excellent presentations. I would like to express my gratitude to the Wadsworth family for their important support to final year PhD students, and to the SCF committee, SIPBS, Strathclyde and Ulster University for their impeccable and successful organisation of this great meeting. Information on the next year’s SCF can be found on the webpage: https://www.scf.strath.ac.uk/
Dr. Susan Currie announces the prizes winners for the best Oral communication, Martina Rooney, best poster prize, Karla O’Neill, and the Roger Wadsworth Award winner, Francesca Vacante. The SCF 2021 was a Zoom virtual event.