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Cambridge Cardiovascular


A team at Cambridge University has been shortlisted for a £30m grant which would support them to create the world's first 3D map of hardened arteries.

Professor Ziad Mallat's ultimate vision is a world free of heart attacks and strokes and to achieve this, he believes in the future a vaccine could be developed to protect people in later life.

His research group is one of four finalists shortlisted for the "Big Beat Challenge" - a global competition organised by the British Heart Foundation.

The Cambridge University team's proposal is a project aimed at creating iMAP. They plan to use the very latest technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to create the world's first 3D map of these the things that cause hardened arteries.

The map would enable them to explore each individual cell, looking at its position, its genetic material, how it communicates with other cells and how its role changes over time.

Professor Mallat, has described the technology as akin to a 'Google Map' of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. 


It's the difference between looking at the Earth from a satellite and being able to examine a street, and going to each house and knocking on the door and asking what each person is doing and who they are talking to.

Professor Ziad Mallat


He believes this work will help his team identify the key components that are involved in triggering the inflammatory response.

Once the team has identified some potential drug targets, they aim for more funding and support to develop new anti-inflammatory drugs.

This could eventually help them develop a vaccine against the disease, Professor Mallat believes.

Such a vaccine would prime the immune system so that it recognises the 'injured' arteries and does not mount a full-on assault.

"We need to stop thinking of atherosclerosis as a disease of the elderly. You need an intervention early on, to stop the disease from happening in the first place, " he said.

"We believe we can make atherosclerosis a disease of the past and fulfil our vision of a world free from the fear of heart attacks and strokes." Ziad Mallat concluded.

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