A Cambridge University researcher from Royston took on the British Heart Foundation's open water swim to thank the charity for funding her work.

Dr Catherine Wilson, 45, is working to find the first cure for heart failure outside of heart transplants, focusing on the regeneration of heart cells.

On Saturday, June 29, Catherine took part in the Bournemouth Pier to Pier swim alongside 1,200 other swimmers.

Having worked in cancer biology, Catherine moved into cardiovascular research in 2019 after discovering that cancer cell properties could help the heart through their ability to regenerate.

Catherine undertaking her research for the British Heart FoundationCatherine undertaking her research for the British Heart Foundation (Image: BHF)

Normally heart muscle cells can not repair themselves following a heart attack, so the heart becomes permanently scarred - but Catherine is hoping cancer genes can be redeployed to allow the heart to repair itself.

Catherine said: "Taking on the BHF’s Bournemouth Pier to Pier swim was my way of giving back to the charity that believed in me.

"Without funding from them, I wouldn’t be able to carry out my work and my research – they’ve been integral in getting us so far into this promising new medical breakthrough for heart failure patients. 

"The event made perfect sense to me as it combines two loves in my life, science and swimming!

"It was a wonderful event, with fabulous organisation in a beautiful part of the world."

Catherine's fundraising contributed to the £288,000 raised for the charity's research into new cures and treatment for heart diseases.

She said: "There are currently around a million people in the UK with heart failure and whilst there are medications to help maintain symptoms, currently heart transplants are the only curative option for patients in need.


"However, there are only around 200 heart transplants in the UK a year because there just aren’t that many hearts available or suitable.

"So, there is a huge need to develop novel methods to treat patients. The ultimate goal of my research is that we can use the body’s own cells to heal itself."

Kate Sparks, senior events manager at the BHF, added: "It was fantastic to see the passion and determination of Catherine and our other swimmers."