Molecular Cardiology - Australia’s number one killer

“Heart disease is Australia's number one killer”, says A/Prof Jock Campbell, head of SVI’s Molecular Cardiology Unit. “One in five people will develop heart disease in their lifetime. The problem is that some of these people will not know it until it is too late.”

The heart muscle is continuously working, pumping blood around the body to provide cells with nutrients and oxygen. However, just as with any pump, things can go wrong. The blood vessels delivering blood to the heart muscle can become narrowed or blocked, disrupting flow through the system (coronary artery disease); the valves within the pump can malfunction (valvular heart disease); or the heart muscle may become weak, so that it is unable to pump sufficient nutrients and oxygen to itself and the rest of the body for normal daily activities (heart failure).

Jock and his group focus particularly on discovering the mechanisms which cause heart disease, and trying to find better ways of identifying people at increased risk of heart disease, in order to stop the disease before it does damage.

The group has established a ‘bank’ of heart biopsies from people having open-heart surgery. This is the first of its kind in the world, and is allowing the researchers to get a clearer picture of what happens to the muscle of the heart in people with coronary artery disease, and with the deterioration of heart function that accompanies obesity, diabetes and ageing.

Research by the Molecular Cardiology Unit aims to improve the cardiovascular health of the community, and this aim can only be achieved with community collaboration. This research would not be possible without the active participation of individuals undergoing open heart surgery who consent to the surgeon taking a biopsy of their heart muscle, and by individuals contributing to the investigation of new strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease. For Jock, it is both an honor and a privilege to collaborate with the community in this research.