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Q&A with Professor Kerry-Anne Rye
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Professor Kerry-Anne Rye

A new way to keep people who have had a heart attack healthy

Professor Kerry-Anne Rye obtained her PhD from Flinders University of South Australia in 1986 and gained her postdoctoral training at The University of Illinois. Professor Rye is a Research Professor, Head of the Lipid Research Group and Deputy Head (Research) in the School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales. 

Professor Kerry-Anne Rye has received several Heart Foundation awards. In 2020, she received a Vanguard Grant to investigate a new way to reduce the risk of further heart problems in people who have had a heart attack.

What are you currently researching?

A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel (a coronary artery) that supplies the heart muscle becomes blocked.

Having one heart attack increases your risk of having another heart attack. People who have had a heart attack are also at increased risk of developing heart failure. They also have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

For people who have had a heart attack, current treatment options for reducing the risk of future heart problems include taking medicines to:

  • reduce the risk of blood clots (anticoagulant medicines)
  • lower blood cholesterol levels (statins)
  • lower blood pressure.

In addition to taking medicines, there are other things which people can do to reduce the risk of a future heart attack. These include maintaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking, being more physically active, and having a heart-healthy diet. Attending a cardiac rehabilitation program is also important.

While these interventions are effective, new strategies are needed to further improve outcomes for people who have had a heart attack.

A potential new approach is to reduce damage to the heart muscle following a heart attack, by preventing
inflammation.

We can achieve this by targeting two proteins:

  • Apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I), the main protein in high density lipoproteins (HDLs), or “good” cholesterol. This protein stops tissue inflammation.
  • Myeloperoxidase which may stop the beneficial anti-inflammatory activity of ApoA-I. It also contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease and impairs blood vessel function. Levels of myeloperoxidase increase after a heart attack.
We have developed a peptide (a short protein) called D6PV. D6PV mimics the anti-inflammatory properties of ApoA-I.

We also have a way of inhibiting myeloperoxidase, so it does not block the beneficial activity D6PV. This is with a group of myeloperoxidase inhibitors called 2-thioxanthines.

This research project looks at whether D6PV reduces inflammation after a heart attack. We also want to know if this benefit is increased by using D6PV together with a myeloperoxidase inhibitor.

If successful, this research project could provide a new treatment for people who have had a heart attack.

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?

We know that around one third of people who have a heart attack go on to have another heart attack, or other outcomes (death or stroke) within 5 years. It’s important to understand if this potential new treatment can reduce the risk of death and ill-health in this high-risk group.

This research project will investigate the combination of D6PV and myeloperoxidase inhibitors, as a new treatment option for people who have had a heart attack. We want to understand how this combination can reduce damage to the heart muscle following a first heart attack.

We also hope to understand if this combination treatment can increase the protective effects of “good” (HDL) cholesterol on the heart.

What role has Heart Foundation funding had in your career journey?

Support from the Heart Foundation for this project is hugely important. I would not be able to undertake this research project without the support of this Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant. I hope that my findings will provide an opportunity to gain further funding from other research organisations. This will allow me to continue my work to improve the lives of people who have had a heart attack.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

The generous donations of Heart Foundation supporters are vital. Without this support, my ability to research cardiovascular disease would be limited. I am very grateful and feel privileged that the Heart Foundation selected my project for funding through a Vanguard Grant. It is only with this support that I can conduct my research to improve outcomes for people living with cardiovascular disease.

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