Interventional cardiology

Prize winning project to improve renal denervation

Thursday, 8 Nov 2018

You’ve developed a novel microwave transcatheter renal denervation system. What was the clinical need?

Hypertension is a common and important risk factor for cardiovascular disease affecting 1 in 3 adults, yet half of patients fail to achieve adequate blood pressure control, some even despite multiple medications. We know that uncontrolled hypertension leads to about half of all cardiovascular deaths, so the potential impact of a new technology that can help treat high blood pressure is immense.

What have you been able to demonstrate with this new technology so far?

We have been able to show that it is capable of deactivating the nerves that go to the kidney which are thought to be hyperactive in many patients with hypertension. The procedure is minimally invasive and is done through an artery in the groin. We are currently at a pre-clinical stage, and now in the process of producing a clinical grade system that can be used in patients.

An intraprocedural physiological endpoint for renal sympathetic denervation was also a component of your research. Why is it important?
Right now, there is no way of working out whether we have deactivated the kidney nerves during a renal denervation procedure. This has been a problem, as you can imagine, because the doctor doesn’t know during the procedure that what has been done has been effective. We have been trying to develop a new way to test kidney nerve function during the procedure so that the doctor can ensure that they accomplish the task they set out to do, and maximise the chance that a patient will have the best blood pressure lowering response possible from the procedure.

microwave catheter

What aspect of this research excites you the most?

The potentially enormous impact this work could have on global health is a driving motivation for me. The opportunity to combine my passion for medical technology innovation and medical research to ultimately provide a therapy that is in need for so many people is very exciting.

What has been your biggest research hurdle?

We have performed much of our research with a minimal research budget which has really forced us to have greater efficiency and ingenuity. This has both been a problem initially but also a driver for our personal growth and development as researchers

How long before your work impacts care for patients with resistant hypertension?

Our plan is to develop a clinical grade renal denervation system by 2020 for first in man studies. The device will then need to be approved by regulatory bodies to become commercially available.

Does radiofrequency ablation still have its place?

I suspect that radiofrequency ablation for renal denervation will eventually be superseded by newer technologies that are better for the job. Radiofrequency ablation has been our default method because we have quite a bit of experience with it in other fields of cardiovascular medicine, but it has a number of limitations for renal denervation.

What’s your Holy Grail – the one thing you’d like to achieve in your research career?

The problem with a Holy Grail is that if you ever achieve it, you’d be left wondering “what next?”. If I can learn something new about the conditions we treat, help define the challenges and contribute incrementally to the medical solution that make a difference to the lives of my patients, I think I will have had a very fulfilling research career.

Who has inspired you in work or life?

My grandfather who is almost 101 years old now, and who was also a cardiologist, has always been a guiding light and mentor in my life and career. I think his mixture of academia along with being a compassionate doctor and family man strikes a balance in life that is important to aim for.

What have you learn about yourself during this project?

We have been working on this project for about 3.5 years before receiving substantial grant funding to advance it to the next level. I have learnt how important it is to be persistent when it comes to research and to be proactive in looking for opportunities.

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