Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke, heart failure) remain major causes of premature death and disability in our community. Our research covers the broad spectrum from basic laboratory to clinical and community studies of new strategies for the prevention and treatment of these important diseases.
We discovered that aliskiren, a new treatment for high blood pressure that inhibits the enzyme renin, also increases bradykinin levels in tha heart. We are evaluating the cardiac protection that may result from this effect of aliskiren in rats.
Heart attack and heart failure are often a consequence of abnormalities of the blood vessels off the heart muscle and of the heart muscle cells. In collaboration with cardiologists and surgeons at St Vincent's Health we established a cardiac tissue bank. With patient consent, small pieces of heart muscle are taken during open heart surgery. Together with colleagues from Melbourne and Monash universities, we are comparing heart muscle from patients with and without heart attack or heart failure to identify how differences in the blood vessels and heart muscle cells contribute to these conditions. These studies are giving important new insights into why people with obesity and diabetes are more likely to develop heart failure.
The SCREEN-HF study is a community-based investigation to discover whether a blood test (for a protein called NT-proBNP) can identify people at increased risk of heart failure. This study is a collaboration with cardiologists at St Vincent's Health, and Melbourne and Monash Universities. We have recruited 4000 people from the community and measured their blood levels of NT-proBNP. We are now performing echocardiographic tests to assess how well their heart muscle is working, and we will follow-up these individuals over 5 years to see which ones develop heart failure. Identifying people before or at the earliest stages of heart failure will help us ensure they receive currently available treatments for the prevention and treatment of heart failure.