Funding boost for innovative heart research

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Research into sudden cardiac death, the use of anti-inflammatory nano-particles to repair damaged hearts and tackling heart transplant rejection are among new projects being funded by the Heart Foundation

The Heart Foundation today announced 84 grants to researchers to investigate the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and related disorders.

The awards are part of the Heart Foundation’s commitment to investing $50 million in heart-related research over 2018-2020.

Other awards being funded include research into next-generation cardiovascular 3D imaging, new ways to target hardened arteries and the link between abnormal heart rhythms and complex congenital heart disease.

Cardiologist Dr Elizabeth Paratz at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute is researching sudden cardiac death in adults aged 35 to 50. Dr Paratz is hoping to find answers for families who are left wondering why a seemingly fit and healthy person suddenly died, and if their children are at risk. Dr Paratz will investigate clinical and genetic factors and set up a registry to track how common sudden cardiac death is in Victoria and nationally.

“It is a major health issue. We think it is occurring at about the same rate as car accidents but not many people know about it,” Dr Paratz said.

This is the first Heart Foundation grant for Professor Igor Konstantinov at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, who is hoping to develop a blood test that will diagnose rejection in young heart transplant patients.

“Now they must have 10 heart biopsies in the first year of their transplant,” he said. 

Professor Konstantinov said the same blood test could be used to detect rejection in other organ transplant patients.

The 2018 funding covers 19 Future Fellow Leaderships, 19 Postdoctoral Fellowships for early-career researchers, seven health PHD scholarships and 36 Vanguard Grants, which allow researchers to test innovative concepts in health services.

National Heart Foundation CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly (AM), said that despite the improvements in prevention and treatment over the past few decades, heart disease remains the single leading cause of death in Australia, linked to 18,590 deaths in 2017. An average of one Australian dies of heart disease every 28 minutes, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

“Almost 625,000 Australians are living with heart disease and it is the main cause for hospitalisation in this country,” Professor Kelly said.

“There is still a lot to be learned about the best way to prevent and treat it, and research is at the heart of what we do. We aim to fund the highest impact research that has the potential to deliver major advances in treatment and prevention.

“We are proud to support this year’s grant recipients who will continue this critical work.”

The Heart Foundation received 348 applications for the 2018 funding round. Our research program supports early to mid-career researchers who are working on research areas that have the potential to deliver the biggest benefits to Australians.

Since its inception almost 60 years ago, the Heart Foundation has funded close to $600 million (in today’s dollars) in world-class heart-related research, supporting thousands of Australian researchers. 

The research program has contributed to important advances in heart health, including the development of the pacemaker, coronary care units, cardiac rehabilitation and the treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

In addition to the grants, five researchers have received awards for innovation and excellence this year.

View the full list of awards and grant recipients.