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William Bayliss and Ernest Starling are not only famous as pioneers in cardiovascular physiology, but also responsible for the discovery of the first hormone (from the Greek 'excite or arouse'), the intestinal signalling molecule and neuropeptide secretin in 1902. Our research group focuses on neuropeptides and neuromodulators that influence cardiovascular autonomic control as potential biomarkers in disease and tractable targets for therapeutic intervention. Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and chronic heart failure (CHF) result in high levels of cardiac sympathetic stimulation, which is a poor prognostic indicator. Although beta-blockers improve mortality in these conditions by preventing the action of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, a substantial residual risk remains. Recently, we have identified the sympathetic co-transmitter neuropeptide-Y (NPY) as being released during AMI, leading to larger infarcts and life-threatening arrhythmia in both animal models and patients. Here, we discuss recently published data demonstrating that peripheral venous NPY levels are associated with heart failure hospitalisation and mortality after AMI, and all cause cardiovascular mortality in CHF, even when adjusting for known risk factors (including brain natriuretic peptide). We have investigated the mechanistic basis for these observations in human and rat stellate ganglia and cardiac tissue, manipulating NPY neurochemistry at the same time as using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, to establish the receptor pathways responsible for NPY signalling. We propose NPY as a new mechanistic biomarker in AMI and CHF patients and aim to determine whether specific NPY receptor blockers can prevent arrhythmia and attenuate the development of heart failure.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date



arrhythmia, autonomic nervous system, coronary microvascular function, heart failure, neuropeptide Y, sympathetic nervous system, ventricular fibrillation