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Tropoelastin: a new treatment to decrease cardiac scar rigidity and prevent heart failure

Associate Professor James Chong, Institution: University of Sydney

2019 Vanguard Grant

Years funded: 2020-2021


Heart attacks recently claimed the lives of more than 90,000 Australians over a 10 year period. In 2017 alone, heart attacks, on average, claimed the lives of 21 Australians every day. The limited supply of donors for heart transplantation, coupled with the increase in the number heart attacks in recent years, urgently requires development of new therapies to treat this lethal disease.

Following a heart attack, a proportion of heart muscle is starved of oxygen and consequently dies. As the heart does not have the ability to regrow this muscle tissue, it is replaced with a stiff collagen scar, leading to abnormal heart function. This mismatch of a stiff scar with the rest of the heart, causes more muscle tissue to die and often leads to heart failure, resulting in death.

Tropoelastin is a naturally occurring protein in the body that contributes to the stretch or elasticity of a number of different organs, such as the skin and the lungs. We aim to determine whether injecting this elastic protein into the scar will increase its flexibility, eliminating the mismatch of stiffness between the scar and the heart muscle. We predict this will improve heart function and could ultimately prevent heart failure; saving thousands of Australian lives every year.

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