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Blanca Rodriguez awarded Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship


Blanca Rodriguez has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in Biomedicial Sciences for 5 years, which will support her work in the field of Computational Medicine.

The most common cause of mortality in the UK is Sudden Cardiac Death,which is associated with arrhythmias (irregular beating of the heart) and acute myocardial ischaemia (reduced blood supply to the heart). Treating patients with drugs can have a limited, or unexpected effect due to what is called drug cardiotoxicity.  If cells in the heart are already damaged, the currently available drugs are sometimes less effective, or react in ways that are unexpected, compared to when the same drugs are used on someone with a healthy heart.

Drug-induced arrhythmias are more likely to occur in patients with cardiac disease, but drug safety screening is routinely conducted in healthy animal models. Therefore, little is known about what happens when drugs are used to treat patients, who already have damaged cells in, and a reduced blood supply to the heart.  So a big question is, how do the drugs used to regulate the heart affect the heart’s electrical activity differently in diseased and non-diseased hearts? This is where Blanca’s computer modelling of human hearts comes in.

Blanca has been awarded the prestigious Senior Research Fellowship in Biomedical Sciences for 5 years (2013-2018), jointly sponsored by the Departments of Computer Science and Cardiovascular Medicine at Oxford. The formal title of Blanca’s research programme is entitled "Safetyand efficacy of anti-arrhythmic drug therapy in acute myocardial ischaemia in human. An integrative, multiscale and mechanisticinvestigation". Blanca's team will be using a Systems Biology Approach based on the integration of advanced computational modelling and simulation techniques with experimental and clinical research. Theresearch programme builds on Blanca’s strong collaborations with experimental and clinical human electrophysiologists  (those studying the electrical properties of cells and tissues) and the pharmaceutical industry.  The findings of her research are expected to be of significant use to clinicians, doctors and drug manufacturers, not to mention the patients.