Justin Hamilton’s passion for heart research is very personal. His family has a long history of heart disease, and he wanted to see what he could do about it.
If you boil everything we do down to a single goal, it’s to discover new therapeutics that will do a better job at preventing heart attack and stroke than aspirin does.
Blood clots cause almost all heart attacks and most strokes, which are the leading causes of death in Australia and have an enormous impact on our society. I think most people know of someone who’s been either lost or seriously affected by heart attack or stroke.
We examine in great detail how the cells in the blood form the clots that cause heart attacks and most strokes. If we can understand the intricacies of this process, we may be able to uncover new approaches for preventing it.
Drugs like aspirin are the primary therapy for blood clot prevention. Aspirin is a safe and reasonably effective anti-blood clotting drug, although most people are surprised to hear that it prevents a heart attack in only about 15% of people. Clearly there’s a lot of room for improvement. Our goal is to discover ways that will help with this improvement. Fortunately, we have had some recent success.
A new drug which prevents blood clot formation using an approach we helped discover was approved for use in the USA and made available to the first patients in August 2014. While the work to reach this stage was performed by dozens of scientists and clinicians over about 10 years, the original studies were performed by a small team that I was a part of. All things going well, we are hoping this new drug will become available in Australia in the coming years.
Funding from the Heart Foundation has undoubtedly helped to get me and my team to the point we are today. I was first introduced to a research lab through a Heart Foundation student scholarship. They helped fund my first research training during my PhD studies and contributed to funding the discovery of the new anti blood clotting drug.