Malaysian scientist wins grant from British Heart Foundation
Dr Masliza Mahmod

Oxford-based Dr Masliza will lead a team to test new treatment for heart valve disease

By HABHAJAN SINGH

A Malaysian researcher played a lead role in landing a British Heart Foundation (BHF) grant to allow University of Oxford scientists to test a new way of treating people with aortic stenosis.

Dr Masliza Mahmod (picture) was awarded the £290,000 (RM1.6 million) grant to carry out a pilot study in patients with the debilitating condition.

Dr Masliza and her team will undertake the new research in aortic stenosis using a drug called fibrate, which is already used to treat people with increased fat levels in their blood.

“We hope that this drug will reduce the excessive heart muscle fat and to see if it will improve the heart’s function and exercise capacity.

“The application was externally assessed by a panel of experts in the subject. The success was primarily based on the scientific novelty of the research and clinical importance,” she told The Malaysian Reserve in an emailed response.

Dr Masliza, a university research lecturer, is head of clinical trials group at the Oxford Centre for Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research (OCMR), which is under the cardiovascular medicine division.

She obtained a DPhil (PhD) in Cardiovascular Medicine from the University of Oxford, and Certificate of Completion of Training in Cardiology, UK.

“In my previous doctorate work, I have discovered excessive fat deposition in the heart muscle of patients with aortic valve narrowing (aortic stenosis),” she said.

Dr Masliza obtained a Masters of Medicine from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a primary medical degree from the University of Otago, New Zealand. She holds a membership of the UK’s Royal Colleges of Physicians.

Asked how she ended up at Oxford, she said: “Following the completion of my PhD in 2013, I undertook a postdoctoral fellowship, and led the establishment of the clinical trials group at the OCMR.”

On the significance of the study, she said if they could show that the drug improved the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body in aortic stenosis, then it would give doctors a way to help people manage the 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.

“If positive, there is a potential that fibrate could be a new treatment after a larger research,” she said.

The grant, spread over three years, covers the cost of running the research and funding a PhD student whom Dr Masliza will supervise.

BHF is the UK’s No 1 heart charity and it funds cardiovascular research to help people with heart diseases.