NHMRC announces latest funding for cardiovascular research projects

9 Nov 2021

The NHMRC has announced new funding for several cardiovascular-related research projects including studies into improving arrhythmia identification, treatments of inflammation in atherosclerosis and drug targets for heart failure.

The cardiovascular projects are among 248 innovative research projects to receive a share of $239 million from the Ideas Grant scheme.

A/Prof Anand Ganesan

Associate Professor Anand Ganesan and his team at Flinders University will use $1,166,529 to “develop personalised approaches to atrial fibrillation treatment”, via a “combination of clinical, experimental, simulation and technology projects”. The projects will harness the team’s “recently developed equations which can accurately predict the number and population distribution of rotors”, Associate Professor Ganesan wrote in his proposal.

Associate Prof Elisabeth Lambert of Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria, receives $683,535 to fund a project that aims to identify brain pathways regulating sympathetic nervous outflow in human hypertension.

“We will use magnetoencephalography, which records the magnetic field generated by brain neurones, coupled with simultaneous direct nerve recording to reveal which neurones in the brain are responsible for the generation of excess nervous activity in individuals with hypertension,” she writes.

Professor Kerry-Anne Rye of the University of NSW, Sydney, receives $1,566,077 to fund a project investigating a novel, dual-targeted therapeutic approach for reducing diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis. She explains that blood levels of the pro-inflammatory enzyme myeloperoxidase (MPO) are elevated in patients with diabetes at risk of atherosclerosis. “This project will determine whether treatment with peptides that have anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties plus an MPO inhibitor reduces heart disease in these patients more effectively than the peptides alone or an MPO inhibitor alone.”

With $491,777, Monash University’s Associate Professor Zanfina Ademi will help demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of new interventions with an “innovative approach” to health economics modelling.

“Despite the increasing uptake of health economic models in practice, greater understanding of the impact of lifetime disease risk in costs and outcomes is fundamental for cardiovascular disease,” Associate Professor Ademi wrote in her proposal. “This [modelling] will inform government policies, [and] lead to efficient access to preventive therapeutics.”

University of Melbourne’s Associate Professor Daniel Scott will use $1,551,582 to explore α1-adrenoceptors’ role as drug targets for heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Heart failure and dementia are the top and fifth leading disease burdens in Australia respectively, highlighting the urgent need to identify new ways to treat and relieve the symptoms of these devastating diseases,” Associate Professor Scott’s proposal read.

“α1-adrenoceptors have been implicated as playing an important role in heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease, but no suitable drugs exist to explore this further. This project will develop such tools using innovative approaches.”

And Monash University’s Associate Professor Francine Marques will use $998,801 to explore gut pH’s role in blood pressure regulation.

“High blood pressure continues to be a major, poorly controlled but modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular death. Diets high in fibre are associated with lower blood pressure via the production of substances as a result of fibre digestion by gut microbes. We found that these same substances lower gut pH. This new mechanism could have major implications for the management of hypertension in the future,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Professor Natkunam Ketheesan at the University of New England will use $485,135 to develop a rheumatic heart disease-specific test using streptococcal antibodies. He also hopes to “identify new pathways that lead to heart damage and train and mentor three Indigenous Research Cadets”.

The full list of grant winners is available via the NHMRC website.

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