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DPAG BHF Intermediate Research Fellow Dr Joaquim Vieira has been shortlisted for the British Heart Foundation’s annual ‘Reflections of Research’ image competition.

An image resembling tree roots branching out shows the development of the blood vessels on the outside surface of the heart called the epicardium. © Dr Joaquim Miguel Vieira, University of Oxford, British Heart Foundation - Reflections of Research.
Branching blood vessels in the heart

Blending the wonders of science and art, the BHF's annual 'Reflections of Research' image competition challenges BHF-funded scientists to showcase their awe-inspiring research into cardiovascular health and disease through stunning imagery. 

This year, Dr Joaquim Vieira, Group Leader at the new Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM), has been shortlisted with 'Branching blood vessels in the heart'. This beautiful image looks like tree roots branching out into the soil on first glance, but is in fact blood vessels growing on the outside surface of the heart (also known as the epicardium).

Dr Vieira hopes to understand processes in the embryo which cause the heart to repair itself after damage, for example the damage seen after a heart attack. He will be investigating how cells from the epicardium are ‘switched on’ in a process called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). By understanding the EMT process in the growing heart in the embryo, he believes it might be possible to switch important genes on again in the adult heart, helping to heal damage arising from heart attacks or other heart and circulatory diseases.

Dr Vieira said:I’m thrilled that my image has been shortlisted for this year’s Reflections of Research competition as it embodies the leaps we are making to find ways to help the heart heal itself after injury.

“We hope that by better understanding the healing power of the heart at the very early stages in development, we will be able to harness those secrets, and finally be able to repair the damage seen in people with heart failure.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation and one of the judges, said: “It is amazing to think that each of these beautiful images tell a story of the dedication of our brilliant BHF scientists as they make progress to save and improve lives.

“I love how they all shine a spotlight on the stunning complexity of the cardiovascular system. The research behind these striking images could be what powers the next breakthroughs in tackling heart and circulatory diseases, saving lives in years to come.”   

This text is adapted from a press release written by the British Heart Foundation.