The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to better understand, diagnose and treat heart conditions and new genetic testing approaches for inherited heart disease are just some of University of Sydney projects to receive funding from the NSW Government.
Under the first round of the NSW Cardiovascular Disease Research Capacity Building Program almost $15 million has been awarded to 20 senior or clinical scientists, including numerous University of Sydney researchers.
Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard said the first round of grants showed the amazing talent and strengths of NSW’s research capability.
“The NSW Government has committed to turbo-charge investment in cardiovascular disease research to encourage our best minds to find the breakthroughs needed for patients,” Mr Hazzard said.
Professor of cardiac imaging, Martin Ugander received a grant for his project, “Heart Failure and Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Pathophysiological Mechanisms, New Methodologies, Improved Diagnosis and New Treatment.”
Professor Ugander explained: “A large group of patients that are difficult to both diagnose and treat are those with heart failure caused by high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.
“This category of heart failure is particularly associated with inefficient filling of the heart, thick walls of the heart, and a reduction in blood flow to the smallest vessels of the heart.
“The use of MRI to help people with heart conditions is currently underutilised in Australia.
"This grant will help fund research to develop and use state-of-the-art MRI methods to both better understand, diagnose, and evaluate a new surgical treatment for inefficient filling of the heart.”
Professor of medicine and interventional cardiologist, Gemma Figtree received a grant for her project titled “Discovering and translating new markers and mechanisms of atherosclerosis.”
She coordinates a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, driven by the increasing number of heart attack patients who are asking “why me”?
Through integration of molecular markers and advanced imaging, clinical phenotyping and innovative novel computational bioinformatics approaches, Professor Figtree plans to unravel new mechanisms and biomarkers of both coronary artery disease susceptibility and resilience.
“Cardiovasc disease is our biggest killer so it is vital that we look at preventative approaches and seek to identify new methods for identifying subclinical disease before major life-threatening events,” said Professor Figtree.
Dr Richard Bagnall from the Faculty of Medicine and Health received a grant for his project, “Translating genomics to clinical care of patients with inherited heart disease,” which aims to develop new and improved genetic testing approaches.
“Genetic testing is an important step in clinical management of families with inherited heart diseases, but for many families the genetic cause of disease is not found using current approaches,” said Dr Bagnall.
“Most genetic testing focuses on protein coding regions of DNA, which represents only one percent of our genome.
“My research will look for disease-causing DNA variants in the remaining non-protein coding regions using both computational analyses and laboratory-based experiments.”
During his research project, Dr Bagnall will be engaging with NSW-based patients to offer free state-of-the-art genetic testing with a higher diagnostic yield than currently available.
Other University of Sydney researchers to receive grants under the NSW Cardiovascular Disease Research Capacity Building Program include:
Professor Robyn Ward, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health, said: “The University of Sydney’s success in this program is a testament to the strength and breadth of our research in cardiovascular disease.
“The work of our people is set to dramatically improve the heart health of the Australian population in the future.”
Further information on all recipients and their research projects is available on the NSW Office for Health and Medical Research website.