A new research study to be conducted by the University of Dundee to investigate the link between COVID-19 and potential blood vessel damage has been given £133,000 in funding.
The funding has been provided by Heart Research UK to explore how COVID-19 symptoms can cause serious harm to those suffering with pre-existing heart and blood vessel damage. The research will take place for 12 months and will compare the blood vessels of patients who have contracted COVID-19 and those who haven’t.
Faisel Khan, Professor of Cardiovascular Sciences at Dundee’s School of Medicine will lead the research project.
Professor Khan said: “As COVID-19 is still a relatively new disease, we are still trying to understand how it affects the body. We know that people with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions are more likely to suffer from serious complications, and that COVID-19 itself can damage the heart and blood vessels. With this project, we hope to be able to better understand why and how COVID-19 damages the cardiovascular system and hope to find new ways to prevent or reduce that damage, improving outcomes and quality of life for patients. We are very grateful to Heart Research UK for supporting this exciting research.”
The lining of blood vessels called endothelium acts as the first point of contact for the virus, and recent evidence suggests that the virus can cause harm to smaller blood vessels called microvessels.
Inflammation is thought to be linked to this damage as the human body uses inflammation as a defence mechanism against the virus, however when the virus is persistent, inflammation can cause serious harm to the body.
The project will examine if damage of white blood cells is linked to COVID-19 and the increased activation of the cell is causing damage to blood vessels in the body.
Kate Bratt-Farrar, Chief Executive of Heart Research UK, said, “We are delighted to be supporting the work of Professor Khan and his team, whose research is vital in understanding how we are being affected by one of biggest health challenges we have ever faced.
“For some time, it has been known that COVID-19 can have long-lasting effects on the heart. Through this research, we hope to be able to better understand how this damage occurs, and how we can hopefully improve outcomes for patients.
“Heart Research UK grants are all about helping patients. They aim to bring the latest developments to those who need them, as soon as possible. The dedication we see from UK researchers is both encouraging and inspiring, and we at Heart Research UK are proud to be part of it.”
The study will examine patients who have suffered COVID-19 and will compare the effects of drug treatment versus a placebo. The study aims to show whether activation of the neutrophils causes long-term damage to the blood vessels and if reducing their activation has positive effects on the body’s recovery.