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Professor Costanza Emanueli

Professor Costanza Emanueli

Professor Costanza Emanueli


Area of research

Vascular Pathology and Regeneration

Office Room 173
Level 7,
Bristol Royal Infirmary, Upper Maudlin Street BS2 8HW
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 34 23512


My research aims at providing new therapeutic options for patients with cardiac and peripheral ischaemia.  In the era of “regeneration”, I am convinced that work on stem cells should progress together with investigations into the molecular causes of cardiovascular diseases. Hence, my programme focuses on both “causes” and “solutions”.

Research highlights include:

microRNAs as new therapeutic targets and biomarkers in ischaemic disease

microRNAs are non coding RNAs able to post-transcriptionally inhibit the expression of multiple target genes. For this reason, they can produce profound alteration in the molecular pathways regulating cardiovascular disease and “regeneration”. microRNAs have become extremely popular among biomedical scientists. My laboratory has developed early research in microRNAs regulating angiogenesis and endothelial behaviour in response to ischaemia and diabetes. We are member of a Leducq Transatlantic initiative for research and training in vascular microRNAs ( (officially starting in January 2014). Moreover, we are developing translational microRNAs work in the setting of cardiac surgery at the NIHR BRU in cardiovascular medicine in Bristol and the NIHR BRU at the Imperial College of London (in collaboration with Professor Gianni Angelini). My microRNA studies in critical limb ischaemia patients are currently developed through collaborations in Italy.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) therapy of ischaemic disease

NGF was the first growth factor to be identified and characterized, a breakthrough discovery for regenerative medicine that valued the Nobel prize to the Italian scientist Professor Rita Levi Montalcini in 1986. As its name suggests, NGF was for a long time studied in the context of neurobiology and neuromedicine. However, several years ago, I have discovered the proangiogenic activity and therapeutic potential of NGF, focussing at that time on limb ischaemia. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has sponsored my research on the cardiac applications of NGF, first with a Basic Science Lectureship and now with my Senior Research Fellowship. We have so far showed that local NGF gene therapy is able to promote reperfusion, protect cardiomyocytes from death and increase the abundance of stem cells in the infarcted heart (using a mouse model of research) and that it improves post-infarct cardiac function and survival rate. Moreover, NGF gene therapy protects the diabetic heart and kidneys in mice. We have now started a pathway to translate NGF to a first in man trial in patients with coronary artery disease leading to myocardial ischaemia.


Stem cells

Stem cells are the holy grail for both medical scientists and lay persons. Several kinds of stem cells have been proposed for cardiovascular therapies. My laboratory focuses at the most powerful of them, the embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We are improving the process of derivation of vascular progenitor cells from ESCs and trying to better understand their paracrine regenerative properties. Moreover, in collaboration with the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and with the Roslin cells ltd we are developing a pathway to translate clinical grade human ESCs-derived vascular progenitor to a trial in patients with critical limb ischaemia. This would be the very first trial based on ESCs in cardiovascular patients and we are particularly excited. The main collaborator for this work is Professor Andrew Baker.


Finally, I am contributing to the molecular characterization of a new adult stem cell population (the “Bristol pericytes”), which Professors Paolo Madeddu and Gianni Angelini have discovered to be present in vena saphena leftover from coronary-artery-by-pass-graft (CABG) surgery. This long-term project should soon been translated in a phase 1 clinical trial in angina patients (as part of the NIHR-BRU in cardiovascular medicine in Bristol).



I was born in Florence (Tuscany) and studied there to PhD level. I have worked in San Francisco, Ferrara, Rome, Sassari, and Boston before arriving in Bristol in 2005.

I have recently been awarded a  British Heart Foundation (BHF) Chair in Cardiovascular Science at the University of Bristol and I am an honorary Professor at the Imperial College of London.  I am the Bristol coordinator of a BHF centre of Regenerative Medicine, which involves Edinburgh (coordinating centre), Bristol, Glasgow and the KCL.

I am a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) and part of the editorial boards of Circ Res, ATVB and Vascular Pharmacology. I am Academic Editor for Plos One. I do a lot (possibly too much) of work as a referee for articles and grant applications, including at international level.

My background is in pharmacology (from PhD studies) and therapeutic angiogenesis. I have developed my interest and expertise for angiogenesis and vascular biology under the mentorship of Professor Maurizio Capogrossi in Rome. I had the privilege to be part of the team of Jeff Isner (for the last year of his life as he died prematurely in 2001) in Boston. That was “the lab” if you were interested in reparative angiogenesis by gene and cell therapy, as he was pioneering the field.

I am a PhD scientist. Nonetheless, all of my past mentors were clinical academics and I have always been embedded in clinical institutes. This, which I used to consider a possible limit to my early career as a basic scientist, has later proven a true advantage.  My research is now largely translational. This is facilitated by being located in the Bristol Royal Infirmary (my office and laboratory are indeed inside the hospital) together with my clinical colleagues (especially cardiac surgeons) with interest for research.  The Bristol NIHR BRU in cardiovascular medicine further facilitates the bridging of basic and clinical research interests. Moreover, since april 2013, I am a visiting professorship at the Imperial College of London, where I work in collaboration with Professor Gianni Angelini and other key persons at the college and at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre. Indeed, my new line of research bridges my past studies in cardiovascular physiopathology and regenerative medicine with new interests and research opportunities acquired working in team with my surgeon and bioinformatic colleagues. Together, we perform fundamental research working on patients' samples and databases and we hope to move this translationally to impact on the clinical practice. We are particulary interested in tissue engineering, clinical biomarkers and cardiac protections as well as to develop "novel ideas and strange chimeras" able to advance our knowledge on the cardiovascular system and the human body at large.



At the University of Bristol, I direct the cardiovascular module (STEM 7) of the master in stem cells and regenerative medicine

I supervise several PhD students registered in Bristol as well as visiting PhD students.

I offer summer studentship placement to school VI form students (sponsored by the Nuffield foundation).

I have many intercalating medical and non-medical project developing BSc and MS projects supervised by me and my postdoctorial team members

We also host Bristol University INSPIRE medical students and European students at different levels of their education pathway 

At international level, I am part of the faculty of the International PhD programme in Biomedical Science (University of Sassari-Italy and University of Hue-Vietnam) and I direct the Stem Cell module of the Master in Medical health biotechnology at university of Hue’-Vietnam.


  • microRNAs
  • embryonic stem cells
  • ischaemic disease
  • translational research
  • molecular medicine
  • vascular biology
  • cardiovascular sciences


My studies focus on therapeutic angiogenesis and cardiac regeneration by gene and cell therapy. I hold a British Heart Foundation Basic Science Lectureship which is enabling my research group to study the potential of neurotrophin gene therapy of the infarcted heart of normoglycemic and diabetic mice to prevent maladaptative remodeling and heart failure. The original hypothesis at the basis of this research program came from my previous discovery that the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) induces reparative angiogenesis and prevents apoptosis in ischemic and diabetic limb muscles. I am also studying the therapeutic potential of human foetal progenitor cells to repair the ischemic heart and my research group is planning to expand this research to include human embryonic stem cells. Finally, in collaboration with Prof. Madeddu?s lab, we are investigating the action of the kallikrein-kinin system on cardiac stem and progenitor cells.

  • therapeutic angiogenesis
  • cardiac regeneration
  • nerve growth factor (NGF)
  • human foetal progenitor cells
  • human embryonic stem cells
  • kallikrein-kinin system
  • Memberships


    Bristol Medical School (THS)

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