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Concerns over future of heart research institute.

Byline: BETHANY WHITE Reporter bethany.white@trinitymirror.com

A WELSH politician has voiced concerns over the future of heart research after Cardiff University revealed plans to transform the role of the Welsh Heart Research Institute.

The new project sees some research relocating from the Sir Geraint Evans Heart Institute building, a centre which the South Wales Echo helped to fund, to Swansea.

Julie Morgan, AM for Cardiff North, will hold a debate in the Senedd today to discuss the future of vital heart research.

Ms Morgan said: "I'm sad to say that the heart research at the WHRI is being diluted and dissipated - some British Heart Foundation (BHF) research work is moving to Swansea University and other heart research staff have been moved out to different buildings or left as a result of the Medic Forward reorganisation programme introduced by the university.

"The South Wales Echo had a big part to play in the funding of the Sir Geraint Evans WHRI building - with the Have a Heart Campaign, Echo readers had raised more than PS100,000 by 1997 and there were fundraising events large and small across the whole of Wales - and people were very clear, this was for a dedicated heart research building. In fact, the WHRI was the first dedicated heart research building in Britain. Now its future is uncertain but one thing we know is that there won't be a specialist heart research centre at Cardiff Medical School any more."

The AM added: "I do understand that Cardiff University cannot specialise in everything but as recently as 2014 some world-leading research emerged from the WHRI to help combat the causes of sudden cardiac arrest which is a particular killer in young people - and which nearly killed the footballer Fabrice Muamba on the pitch in 2012 live on TV."

The WHRI has been based in the Sir Geraint Evans building since 1999 thanks to a massive public fundraising effort by the famous opera singer Sir Geraint, who sadly died before its completion. But Cardiff University maintains that the building "will remain an active research environment".

Cardiff University's School of Medicine launched a transformational change project called "Medic Forward" in November 2014, which included refocusing research towards prevention of coronary heart disease (atherosclerosis) - Wales' biggest killer.

A Cardiff University spokesperson said: "The Sir Geraint Evans Heart Institute building will remain an active research environment. Our focus will be on patient-centred research that can be translated from 'laboratory bench to patient bedside' as rapidly as possible.

"Indeed, research is being undertaken on atherosclerosis as it shares the feature of chronic inflammation with other diseases such as dementia that ravage the population of Wales.

"The building will also act as a hub for postgraduate research as we look to support and develop the scientists and doctors of the future. The building will not be turned into administrative offices for the medical school in the foreseeable future.

"Cardiff University's School of Medicine is now well positioned to continue to grow, and to lead, in the years to come. Over the last 10 years, the university has invested over PS66m on improving research and teaching facilities which directly benefit the School of Medicine. Overall creating an environment conducive to the production of outstanding research and exceptional doctors.

"Our priority remains to provide world-class medical education through world-leading research and highquality teaching. We remain confident Cardiff University's School of Medicine is fit for the future and ready to tackle the enormous health challenges ahead both here in Wales and the world."

The spokesperson added that the relocation of the "Ryanodine receptor research team to Swansea University should be regarded as a very positive outcome for the people of Wales".

The spokesperson said: "Co-location with a team of clinical electrophysiologists based within the Morriston Cardiac Centre will allow them to more effectively translate their research work into the underlying causes of cardiac arrhythmias into clinically relevant interventions for patient benefit."

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Footballer Fabrice Muamba was stretchered off the pitch after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest on live TV during Bolton's FA Cup clash with Tottenham in 2012
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 16, 2016
Words:683
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