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picture of heart monitor

Advancing discoveries leading to improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease


Approximately 26 million people worldwide live with heart failure – a complex syndrome in which the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the demands of the body. The incidence of heart failure increases with age; it is a progressive condition leading to a significant disability and reduced quality of life. More than 50% of patients die within five years of diagnosis.

University of Glasgow researchers have been instrumental in proving the value, through landmark clinical trials, of three of the four classes of drug used to reduce mortality, reduce hospitalisation rates and improve quality of life for patients with heart failure.

The condition represents a substantial economic burden to health services, with nearly 17 million people living with a heart failure diagnosis in the UK, USA and Europe. Drugs can limit progression of the disease and patients are typically treated with multiple drugs that are prescribed for the rest of their lives.

Until recently, heart failure was one of the most deadly conditions faced by patients. Groundbreaking advances have led to significantly improved patient outcomes and improved quality of life.

Heart failure research at Glasgow

Today, people with the condition have dramatically improved prospects, made possible by the discovery of three groups of particularly effective drugs, which scientists at the University of Glasgow have played a key role in testing. These three drugs have become the gold standard for the treatment of heart failure.

Professor John McMurray, Professor of Cardiology in the Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, has worked extensively in treating heart failure, looking at neuro-endocrine systems to improve the outlook for patients with the condition. Professor McMurray features in the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers 2014 and 2016 lists for exceptional impact in his field.

His latest work focuses on enhancing endogenous ‘neuro-endocrine’ or ‘neuro-humoral’ pathways when the heart starts to fail. By harnessing these potentially beneficial pathways (and simultaneously blocking or inhibiting other detrimental neuro-humoral pathways), this novel approach has further improved the outlook for patients with heart failure.

Impact of research

The Glasgow-led clinical trials have led directly to revision of clinical guidelines on heart failure management globally by providing the key evidence for recommendations issued by the world’s most influential associations for the management of heart failure – the European Society of Cardiology, the American College of Cardiology Foundation and the American Heart Association, which together number almost 150,000 specialists worldwide.

Glasgow researchers have also established heart failure as a healthcare priority in the UK, encouraging the introduction of specialist heart failure nurses who are saving the NHS an estimated £8 million per year. Collectively, these advances have transformed the treatment and survival rates of heart failure patients worldwide.