Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Laboratory

NSW Cardiovascular Research Funding

Cardiovascular funding success for our researchers

23 November 2021

Scientists at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute have received almost $4 million to advance their heart research, with six key team members awarded grants from NSW Health.

The funding from the NSW Cardiovascular Research Capacity Program will be used to drive critical research in Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) being undertaken by Professor Bob Graham and further the ground-breaking work of Professor Sally Dunwoodie into congenital heart disease.

Professor Boris Martinac will continue work to prevent heart failure, while Professor Jamie Vandenberg is looking for answers that could reduce cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

Two of our rising stars, Associate Professor Andrew Jabbour, who is developing new heart imaging tests, and A/Prof Mayooran Namasivayam, who is using artificial intelligence to better predict which patients will benefit most from different treatments, were both successful recipients of Early-Mid Career Researcher Grants.

Professor Jason Kovacic, Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, says the funding reflects the vital and expansive work being carried out across the Institute.

“Our scientists have been recognised for their exceptional contribution to cardiovascular research in Australia. These grants will be used to propel knowledge in different areas, from helping mums with babies at risk of congenital heart disease, preventing life-threatening SCAD, to better monitoring those recovering from heart transplantation.
“Whilst the NSW Government on this occasion has kindly recognised the important research being done by our scientists, the implication of the work reaches across the country and has global significance,” Professor Kovacic says.

Grant recipients and their project outlines are listed below:

Professor Sally Dunwoodie

Congenital heart disease (CHD) affects around 1% of live births every year in Australia. Professor Dunwoodie led the world-first discovery that found the deficiency of a vital molecule, known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), during pregnancy can cause CHD, extra-cardiac-anomalies and miscarriages. This research seeks to expand on that breakthrough and look at how to prevent cases of CHD and other adverse outcomes due to NAD deficiency.

Professsor Sally Dunwoodie

Professor Bob Graham

Up to a third of heart attacks in women under 50 are caused by spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), where an inner layer of one of the blood vessels tears, forming a blockage or slowing blood flow that can result in a heart attack or sudden death. The cause of SCAD is unknown and there are no treatments to prevent occurrences - or recurrences, which happen in up to 30% of cases. This study is to better understand, treat and prevent SCAD by identifying factors that predispose the coronary artery to spontaneous tearing.

Professor Bob Graham

Professor Boris Martinac

Pathological left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) occurs in response to two common conditions that increase the pressure load on the left ventricle - essential hypertension and aortic valve stenosis - and is the single strongest predictor of cardiac mortality. This project will look at the mechanosensitive PIEZO1 ion channel that together with the TRPM4 channel instigates the maladaptive hypertrophic response to pressure overload and work to establish therapeutic intervention to prevent not only LVH, but also heart failure.

Professor Boris Martinac with Dr Charles Cox

Professor Jamie Vandenberg

The hERG ion channel contributes to the electrical activity of the heart, and inadvertently blocking it with drugs can cause cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Why these channels are so susceptible to drug blockade remains a mystery. This research seeks to answer how and why this happens.

Professor Jamie Vandenberg

Associate Professor Andrew Jabbour

Heart transplantation remains the most effective treatment for end-stage heart failure with excellent survival rates. However, acute cardiac allograft rejection (ACAR) remains a major complication in the first year after transplantation. This research seeks to develop non-invasive surveillance and management of ACAR through cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging.

Associate Professor Andrew Jabbour

A/Prof Mayooran Namasivayam

Aortic stenosis is an increasingly common heart valve disease which leads to significant morbidity, mortality and economic costs. Currently, the only treatment available is valve replacement, but there is still much uncertainty about the patient selection and timing of intervention. This research aims to use machine learning to optimise intervention in this important disease.

Associate Professor Mayooran Namasivayam

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years