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Dr Lisa Raven smiling at camera in a medical facility

Q&A with Dr Lisa Raven



Researcher Q&A


Q&A with Dr Lisa Raven

Doctor Lisa Raven is a 2022 Heart Foundation PhD Scholarship recipient at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. She is an endocrinologist, and her current research focuses on the use of a new class of diabetes medicine in preventing complications following heart transplant.

What are you currently researching?

Heart transplants are a lifesaving procedure that can extend the life of a person with heart failure. A heart transplant surgery involves replacing a heart that isn’t working properly with a donor heart. To make sure that the body accepts the new heart, certain medicines, called immunosuppressants, may be used. Immunosuppressants act on the immune system, damping it down so that the body doesn’t fight against the new heart. The survival rates following a heart transplant have improved because of these immunosuppressant medicines, however, they can cause complications. This might include the development of conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or stiffening of the heart. Preventing these complications will improve health outcomes for people who have had a heart transplant.

Excitingly, a new class of diabetes medicines, called sodium glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, have recently been shown to have major benefits for the heart. Not only do they reduce the risk of death from heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes, but they also improve heart function and reduce the chance of hospital stays related to heart failure. Interestingly, they also appear to have this benefit in people without diabetes. In light of this evidence, it is possible that the SGLT2 inhibitors could improve the function of transplanted hearts. We will complete a 12-month study of SGLT2 inhibitors in 100 people who have had a heart transplant. The aim is to find out whether diabetes and other complications related to immunosuppressant medicines can be prevented.

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

Over 300,000 Australians live with heart failure and 30,000 Australians are diagnosed with the condition every year. Heart transplants are a life-saving operation for heart failure and can improve the quality and length of a person’s life. However, long-term immunosuppressant medicines are needed to prevent rejection of the transplanted heart. The study will investigate the potential of a new therapy to prevent the complications associated with these medicines. If it proves to be effective, it could prolong the life of people receiving heart transplants.

What motivated you to do your research?

I have been interested in heart and lung transplants since I worked on the transplant team as a junior doctor. I then trained to be an endocrinologist, which involves treating conditions that are caused by problems with hormones, such as diabetes. This project combines my two interests, involving both heart transplants and a diabetes medicine.

Are there any achievements or discoveries from the past year you can share with us?

As part of the background research and preparation for the trial, I collaborated with another endocrinologist and heart transplant cardiologists, who are also investigators in this study, to write a review article. The article is titled ‘Diabetes medication following heart transplantation’ and has been published in an international diabetes journal Acta Diabetologica.

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

The Heart Foundation PhD Scholarship will allow me to work full time on my doctoral studies and this project. This will help me to continue developing my research skills, which is essential for my career goals. I aim to be a clinician-researcher in endocrinology, with a focus on solid organ transplants. This scholarship will support my work at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

A heartfelt thank you for your support of the Heart Foundation. Through this PhD Scholarship, I can undertake research to try and improve the lives of people receiving heart transplants.

Last updated21 April 2023