Healing hearts

Nick Schumacker

Nick Schumacker (PhD 2013-) is developing a novel surgical technique that will help thousands of people affected by heart disease.

Working in the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Nick is part of a cutting-edge research community whose clinical expertise will help take his research from bench to bedside quicker than would otherwise be possible.

'I feel incredibly lucky to be studying at Bristol and simply can't thank you, the alumni community, enough. Without your help, I'd never have been able to start my research in the first place, let alone work at the pace that being part of Bristol's research community allows.

'Every day, I work alongside world-class experts in fields as diverse as adult cardiac surgery, stem cells, vascular biology, engineering and genetics, and have access to state-of-the-art facilities like the Wolfson Bioimaging Facility. Your generosity has made all of this possible – and means the novel surgical technique I’m developing may become a reality much quicker than would be otherwise possible.

'More than 20,000 people in England have heart bypass surgery every year, and one in two will need a repeat procedure after ten years. I’m working on a single surgery solution, using adult stem cells and naturally occurring biodegradable patches to prolong the long-term benefit of bypass surgery. It should minimise risk and trauma for patients, and reduce the need for long term readmissions, and the financial impact of heart surgery on the NHS.

'Completing a PhD has been an ambition of mine since I was an undergraduate. I’ve always enjoyed exploring aspects of science that aren’t fully understood, and love coming up with new ideas. I want to discover something novel, and do something meaningful – the therapy I’m working on fulfils both these objectives.

'My research will also have implications beyond treating heart disease. The technique could translate to bone injuries, aesthetic procedures (for example, ear reconstructions) and complete organ regeneration.

'Stem cell research is such an exciting field to be working in, and will inevitably result in some of the major life-saving treatments of the next century. Thank you so much for understanding the importance of my research. You’ve shown me just how generous and inspirational Bristol alumni are, and I’ll always be thankful for having this fantastic opportunity to make my mark on the world.'

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