The HEART Lab, under the guidance of a team of young investigators, is dedicated to the comprehensive exploration of the impact of exercise on cardiovascular health.
Our research employs cutting-edge exercise testing and specialised cardiac imaging to quantitatively assess the heart’s ability to adapt to the haemodynamic challenge of exercise.
The focus of our research includes the influence of exercise on heart rhythm disorders, the enduring health benefits of sustained endurance exercise, the potential of regular physical activity to mitigate chemotherapy-induced cardiac complications, causes and prevention of sudden cardiac death, and the utility of exercise testing for diagnosing patients with unexplained shortness of breath.
Our multidisciplinary approach aims to directly and immediately impact on improved clinical diagnostics and therapeutics.
Current research projects
The Prospective Athlete Heart Study (Pro@Heart) is the largest and most comprehensive study of the impact of intensive athletic training on health outcomes. We aim to elucidate the genetic factors governing cardiac remodelling in response to endurance exercise, commonly known as ‘athlete’s heart’ And assess the long-term incidence of heart rhythm disorders. Pro@Heart, spanning a remarkable 25-year duration, will provide answers where previously there has only been speculation.EndUCD registry
EndUCD (End Unexplained Cardiac Death) Registry: records every case of cardiac arrest in Australian persons aged under 50 years, alongside comprehensive clinical data and biological specimens whenever possible. Research based on the EndUCD registry aims to unravel the mystery surrounding cardiac arrest and create strategies for prevention.The ProAFHeart study
The ProAFHeart study investigates the impact of endurance exercise on the heightened risk of Atrial Fibrillation (AF), a prevalent, sustained heart rhythm disorder linked to an increased susceptibility to stroke and heart failure, posing a growing societal challenge with our aging demographic. In addition to established risk factors such as age, hypertension, and diabetes, physical activity is emerging as a potent modifier of AF risk. This research seeks to answer why some athletes are more susceptible to these effects than others and aims to uncover the individual variations driving diverse responses to training loads.BREXIT
The BREXIT (Exercise for the prevention of Anthracycline-Induced Functional Disability and Cardiac Dysfunction) study has illuminated the substantial cardiovascular benefits of exercise for breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. This research underscores the vital role of exercise in the care of cancer patients, particularly as more individuals survive early-stage breast cancer, increasing their susceptibility to heart disease, and reinforces the importance of exercise as an essential component of clinical care.
- Kristal Janssens, Research Nurse, Pro@Heart Study Coordinator
- Dr Elizabeth Paratz, Cardiologist, Postdoctoral researcher, EndUCD Study Coordinator
- Dr Steve Foulkes, Postdoctoral Research fellow, BREXIT Study Coordinator
- Amy Mitchell, Senior Research Assistant – ProAFHeart Study
- Oscar Cullen, Research Assistant – Scleroderma study lead
- Dr Louise Fahey, Medical registrar, research assistant
- Joshua McDonald, Research Assistant
- Dr Stephanie Rowe, Cardiologist, PhD student
- Dr Paolo D’Ambrosio, Cardiologist, PhD student
- Luke Spencer, PhD student
Foulkes SJ, Howden EJ, Haykowsky MJ, Antill Y, Salim A, Nightingale SS, Loi S, Claus P, Janssens K, Mitchell AM, Wright L, Costello BT, Lindqvist A, Burnham L, Wallace I, Daly RM, Fraser SF and La Gerche A. Exercise for the Prevention of Anthracycline-induced Functional Disability and Cardiac Dysfunction: The BReast Cancer Randomized EXercise InTervention (BREXIT) Study. Circulation. 2023 Feb 14;147(7):532-545.
Foulkes SJ, Howden EJ, Dillon HT, Janssens K, Beaudry R, Mitchell AM, Lindqvist A, Wallace I, Wright L, Costello BT, Claessen G, Haykowsky MJ and La Gerche A. Too Little of a Good Thing: Strong Associations Between Cardiac Size and Fitness Among Women. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2023.
La Gerche A, Howden EJ, Haykowsky MJ, Lewis GD, Levine BD and Kovacic JC. Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction as an Exercise Deficiency Syndrome: JACC Focus Seminar 2/4. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022;80:1177-1191.
De Bosscher R, Dausin C, Claus P, Bogaert J, Dymarkowski S, Goetschalckx K, Ghekiere O, Van De Heyning CM, Van Herck P, Paelinck B, El Addouli H, La Gerche A, Herbots L, Willems R, Heidbuchel H and Claessen G. Lifelong endurance exercise and its relation with coronary atherosclerosis. Eur Heart J. 2023.
La Gerche A, Claessen G, Dymarkowski S, Voigt JU, De Buck F, Vanhees L, Droogne W, Van Cleemput J, Claus P, Heidbuchel H. Exercise-induced right ventricular dysfunction is associated with ventricular arrhythmias in endurance athletes. Eur Heart J 2015;36(30):1998-2010.
La Gerche A, Claessen G, Van de Bruaene A, Pattyn N, Van Cleemput J, Gewillig M, Bogaert J, Dymarkowski S, Claus P, Heidbuchel H. Cardiac MRI: a new gold standard for ventricular volume quantification during high-intensity exercise. Circ Cardiovasc Imaging 2013;6(2):329-38.