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DPAG scientists across four research groups were highlighted at the major annual European Society of Cardiology basic science conference (FCVB 2022). Congratulations are in order for Dr KC Park on receiving the Young Investigator Award and to Dr Elisabetta Gamen on winning the Moderated Poster Prize.

L-R: KC Park, Elisabetta Gamen and Milda Folkmanaite

DPAG researchers from the Heather, Riley, Swietach and Zaccolo groups attended the prestigious Frontiers in CardioVascular Biomedicine (FCVB) 2022, held in Budapest, Hungary from Friday 29 April until Sunday 1 May. FCVB showcases the best, the latest and the most exciting findings and ideas across the entire spectrum of cutting-edge basic and translational cardiovascular research.

Associate Professor Lisa Heather was an invited speaker to the conference, delivering “Glucose and lipids: when more is not better” on Saturday 30 April 2022. Dr KC Park and Dr Elisabetta Gamen received Travel Awards from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) to attend the conference.

Dr KC Park, postdoctoral research scientist in the Swietach Group, won first place in the Young Investigator Award session. Competitors for this prestigious award are selected for the outstanding quality of their work and present their own original research to a panel of world-renowned experts.

Dr Park presented “Epigenetic changes in the heart triggered by disrupted propionate handling”, which relayed his research into understanding how the ubiquitous metabolite propionate affects heart function. “Whilst propionate concentrations are usually kept low by the mitochondrial enzyme PCC, it can accumulate when PCC activity is reduced. The most extreme example of propionate accumulation occurs in the rare disease propionic acidaemia (PA). Critically, many PA deaths relate to heart problems, suggesting cardiac disease is a major biological consequence, driven by elevated propionate. Using a mouse model of PA, we found that propionate accumulation has profound effects on cardiac gene expression, which involved histone modifications, and were associated with cardiac dysfunction.”

Dr Park joined DPAG in 2017 as a DPhil student in the Swietach Group as part of the British Heart Foundation 4-year Non-Clinical PhD Studentship in Cardiovascular Science. His research investigated the effects of dysregulated propionate metabolism on cardiac physiology. After pausing his project to carry out COVID-19 research during the pandemic, he completed his DPhil in 2021, commencing his first postdoctoral position under Professor Swietach. He is funded by the Propionic Acidemia Foundation and a Career Development Award from the Oxford BHF Doctoral Training Programme. Dr Park adds this Young Investigator Award to the Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award received in July 2020 from the American Heart Foundation.

On receiving the Young Investigator Award, Dr Park would like to acknowledge the mentorship and collaborations of Dr Nicolas Crump and Associate Professor Thomas Milne from the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) and the mentorship and supervision of Dr Alzbeta Hulikova, Associate Professor Nicola Smart and his main supervisor, Professor Pawel Swietach.

Dr Elisabetta Gamen, postdoctoral research scientist in the Riley Group, and Milda Folkmanaite, DPhil student in the Zaccolo Group, presented in the Moderated Poster sessions. Dr Gamen won Best Moderated Poster with “Re-activation of HIF signalling pathway in the epicardium improves heart regeneration after myocardial infarction”.

Dr Gamen’s poster outlined work showing that hypoxia signaling is important for epicardial activation, during both heart development and repair. “In mouse, this signalling gradually decreases during the first week of life concomitantly with epicardial inactivation. Genetical and pharmacological stabilisation of HIF signaling proved to be effective in re-activating the epicardium and improving heart function in a neonatal mouse model of myocardial infarction.”

More information on FCVB 2022 can be found on the ESC website.

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