Healthcare: On the Agenda - 'Primer' drug may repair the heart

In a nutshell

A new drug could help mend the damage caused by heart attacks after scientists successfully researched on mice. Until now, the damage caused by heart attacks had been considered permanent. But a study published online in the journal Nature, funded by the British Heart Foundation, showed the drug thymosin beta 4, if used in advance of a heart attack, was able to 'prime' the heart for repair.

The study

Researchers found the heart has dormant repair cells in its outer layer that may be reactivated. The research suggested that hearts damaged by a heart attack could be encouraged to repair themselves. Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the BHF, said: 'To repair a damaged heart is one of the holy grails of heart research.'

PR strategy

Working closely with Nature, the BHF press team developed a media strategy to promote the study.

A press release was issued under embargo and was sold into national media and science reporters. A briefing at the Science Media Centre was held on 8 June before the 6pm embargo was lifted. The BHF team created a short video of the researcher in his lab explaining the story, which was posted on its site and sent to journalists.

Media coverage

On 9 June, BHF secured extensive media coverage in broadcast, print and online. The UK coverage highlights included Radio 4's Today programme, Channel 4 News and Radio 5 Live. In print, the study was picked up in The Guardian, The Times (including a leader) and the Daily Mail.

750k - Estimated number of people living with heart failure in the UK

124k - Number of heart attacks in the UK each year.

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