The right questions

Posted: 14th July 2020

At any seminar he attends, Associate Professor Jock Campbell will settle into one of the front rows, fold his arms and close his eyes. Proof that he is not napping comes when he invariably raises his hand to ask a question of the speaker. 
A good natured, yet somewhat gruff physician-researcher, Jock has spent his whole career asking difficult questions – in seminars, of patients, and in the lab. 
In 2019, Jock had a study funded by the National Heart Foundation that aims to answer the question, ‘Can we find better ways to identify those at risk of heart disease and kidney failure?’ 
Jock says, “We currently use decades-old practices to identify people at risk of heart and kidney disease. Not only are these outdated, but also, they are not adapted for the Australian population. I think we can do better than that.” 
Jock says that better screening methods will allow us to target treatments to improve health outcomes for older Australians. Cardio-vascular disease kills one Australian every 13 minutes and its prevalence increases with age. 
Jock is using data from Australia’s largest longitudinal study of the evolution of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and stroke. 
This collaborative study, led by Jock, involved more than 4,000 people aged 60 years and over. Participants provided information about their health and blood samples and underwent echocardiograms at baseline and during follow-up over a period of 7 years. 
Jock is using this valuable resource to go ‘back in time’ and look at how the levels of various molecules in the blood of the participants might help to identify individuals at increased risk of disease. 
“Because we know the health outcomes of the participants, we should be able to identify markers that signal problems earlier in the course of the disease, and then apply these prospectively to identify people at increased risk of developing disease in our community today.” 
“If successful, Jock’s study will arm general practitioners with the right questions, the answers to which will allow them to identify patients at increased risk of future cardiovascular and chronic kidney disease and offer them appropriate preventative therapies.” 
An admirable goal for the ultimate asker of questions. 

For more information please see: Molecular cardiology