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Understanding heart attacks caused by spontaneous coronary artery dissection

Dr Lucy McGrath-Cadell, Institution: University of New South Wales

2021 PhD Scholarship

Years funded: 2022-2024  

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) mainly occurs in relatively young women (average age 45-52 years) as a tear in the wall of the heart artery, resulting in a heart attack or sudden death. Cause(s) are not known and thus treatments are not targeted and, in some cases, may be harmful. Up to 30% of survivors have a recurrent SCAD episode. There is a genetic link in some cases and in our cohort of 380 SCAD survivors, 6% have a family member with SCAD and others have a family member with a tear in another artery. 

Dr Lucy McGrath-Cadell plans to: 

  1. use advanced heart imaging to define differences between heart arteries of affected and unaffected people; 
  2. use animal models to correlate the observed characteristics (phenotype) and genetics (genotype) of SCAD; 
  3. sequence DNA from people with SCAD and selected relatives who have a tear in the aorta to identify causative genes.

This work will help address the knowledge gap in SCAD, provide leads towards treatment options and data to inform counselling of family members who may be at risk.

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