The Cardiology Essay Prize 2020 has been awarded to Nicholas Parkes, a Clinical Medical Student at LMH for his essay entitled “Drugs to fix a broken heart: is there scope to pharmacologically manipulate epicardial epithelial-mesenchymal transitions for therapeutic benefit”.  Along with the award he has received a £100 prize.

The prize is open to clinical students working in Oxford and is awarded annually for an essay on a topic relating to cardiology. The judges give particular credit for either original research or essays that present innovative views and careful presentation of structured arguments, especially in support of a point of view that is original or challenges conventional thinking. 

Below is a brief summary from Nicholas about what his essay was about:

Early in post-natal life, the faculty of the mammalian heart to regenerate is lost and superseded by a reparative responsive characterised by excessive scarring. Ultimately, this burdens patients who suffer from heart attacks with a high risk of developing heart failure, for which mainstay therapies fail to reverse the underlying pathology. 

However, complex growth pathways involved in the development of the foetal heart have shown to be up-regulated following damage to the heart in adult mice. The epicardium - the cellular glazing of the heart - is thought to be the conductor of this signalling orchestra. Harnessing and amplifying this process in humans following a heart attack for regenerative therapy could represent an exciting avenue for the treatment of heart failure. Such an approach is fraught with complication and trials so far have not yielded any promising data. With this in mind, is there scope to develop a drug which achieves this medical utopia? 

Photograph of LMH student Nicholas Parkes