Boris Martinac Charles Cox


$1.2 million NHMRC grant success to investigate heart hypertrophy

4 November 2021

The Institute’s Professor Boris Martinac has been awarded more than $1.2 million to further our understanding of one of the most important risk factors for premature death from heart disease.

Professor Martinac will lead a team to undertake specific studies on heart hypertrophy, a thickening of the heart muscle, which can have a number of consequences including weakening of the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently throughout the body.

The funding from the NHMRC Ideas Grant will allow the team from Australia and Germany to study the link between elevated high blood pressure and heart hypertrophy.

Professor Martinac, who heads the Institute’s Mechanobiology Laboratory, said the funding would further our understanding of the molecular origins of heart hypertrophy.

"We already know that high blood pressure is a risk factor for developing heart hypertrophy but what we want to establish is the mechanism that is causing this cellular change.
"If we can solve this missing piece in the puzzle and identify this new cellular pathway we will be far closer to understanding the origins of this condition."

Professor Martinac will be joined in this project by the Institute’s Professor Livia Hool and Professor Michael Feneley, as well as Professor Oliver Friedrich from Germany’s Friedrich-Alexander University.

They will focus on investigating the biological molecules central to this cellular pathway – ion channels called Piezo1 and TRPM4 – which underlie the contractions of the heart muscle.

The Ideas Grant scheme is the second largest scheme in NHMRC’s grant program and this year’s round resulted in $239,230,859 being awarded to research projects across the country.

Just 9.9 per cent of applications were successful, demonstrating the strength of the Institute’s innovative project.

The Institute’s Executive Director, Professor Jason Kovacic, welcomed the news. "Professor Martinac has once again proved he is a world leader in driving our understanding of the causes of heart disease at the molecular level.

"It is hoped this work will identify the critical role being played by these ion channels. What we are discovering at the cellular level here at the Institute will potentially play a crucial role in developing new treatments for tackling cardiac hypertrophy."

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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.

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