(File pix) Dr Masliza is the head of the team conducting the pilot study on heart treatment in Oxford University. Pix courtesy of Dr Masliza Mahmod

LONDON: A MALAYSIAN scientist based in Oxford University, Dr Masliza Mahmod, is heading a pilot study, which aims to reduce excessive and toxic heart fat, known as cardiac steatosis, with a fat-busting drug.

Dr Masliza and her team have been given £290,000 (RM1.6 million) by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to carry out the six-month pilot study. The result of the study will enable patients with aortic stenosis, a debilitating heart condition, to receive better treatment.

Dr Masliza is a research lecturer and head of Clinical Trials Group at the Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine of the University of Oxford. She has been in the United Kingdom for the past nine years.

“Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, causing restriction of blood flow through the valve. This causes the heart to squeeze or contract harder to pump blood into the aorta and to the rest of the body. Severe narrowing can cause symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness and fainting. And this may lead to heart failure,” she explained.

“Our previous research has shown that people with aortic stenosis have excessive fat deposition in the heart muscle, known as cardiac steatosis. Cardiac steatosis is toxic to the heart muscle and can result in reduced function of the heart,” she added.

In this study, which will involve 60 people from hospitals in Oxford, the team will investigate whether fibrate, a drug that is already used to treat high fat levels in the blood, will reduce excessive fat in the heart and improve the heart’s function.

“We will do this by randomly assigning patients to receive either the fibrate or a placebo. To measure fat deposition in the heart muscle and assess heart function we will scan the heart using MRI, as well as perform testing, before and after six months of treatment.

“The result will help us plan a future study to test if fibrate improves health in patients with aortic stenosis.

“If we can show that this drug improves the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body in aortic stenosis, then it would give doctors a way to help people manage this condition with medication.

“This study is a first step in examining whether a drug that is already used to treat high fat levels in people could potentially improve heart function in aortic stenosis,” she explained, adding that a positive result would mean that there was a potential that fibrates could be a new treatment, after a larger research.

The BHF is the UK’s number one heart charity and it funds cardiovascular research to help people with heart diseases.

“In my previous doctorate work, I had discovered excessive fat deposition in the heart muscle of patients with aortic stenosis.”

Dr Masliza, as the Principal Investigator and Grant Holder of this study, is responsible for supervising a Clinical Research Fellow who is undertaking this as a PhD project.

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