A SCIENTIST from Oxford is preparing to tackle Africa’s tallest mountain to help fight heart disease.

Tonia Thomas, 26, normally spends her days investigating heart disease as a researcher at Oxford University.

She will take time out from her work in the laboratory for the slopes of Kilimanjaro to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

Ms Thomas said: "I've wanted to climb Kilimanjaro for years, even though I think it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

"It will involve trekking for eight hours a day, every day, for a week.

"You also have to deal with big changes in temperature and on top of that there is the altitude, which will make it really challenging.

"It will be like nothing I’ve done before or will ever do again. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime challenge."

Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, is the highest peak on the African continent and stands at 5,895m – 19,335ft.

By climbing the mountain on the 10-day trek starting on Saturday Ms Thomas hopes to raise £3,000.

She said: "If someone has a heart attack, the damage to the heart muscle is permanent.

"But I am part of a team who are working to find a way for the heart to repair itself.

"There are cells in the heart that have the power to grow new heart tissue, but at the moment they remain dormant.

"If we can wake these cells up, it may ultimately lead to the development of a drug that could be given to heart attack survivors to mend the damage to their heart.

"Once I’ve completed the trek I am going to spend a week volunteering at a hospital in Tanzania."

People can support Ms Thomas's bid to raise funds by donating online at justgiving.com/fundraising/Tonia-Thomas