Heart & Vascular Disease

Sydney Medical School Foundation has an ongoing commitment to research into diseases affecting the heart. Our focus is on funding the detection and reversal of early heart disease as well as study the causes, prevention and treatment of heart and vascular diseases.

Vascular biology: Professor Jennifer Gamble (2007-2011)

Professor Jennifer Gamble

Professor Gamble's team is focussed towards identifying the genes that are essential to angiogenesis (the process of new blood vessel growth from the pre-existing vasculature) and the signals that control their functions. This, hopefully, will identify novel molecules that can be developed as drug targets.

The team is also investigating the molecular basis for endothelial cell ageing in order to develop intervention strategies, and have identified a protein essential for endothelial cell survival which is involved in the induction of senescence. Levels of this protein are increased by factors linked to turmour growth, cardiovascular disase, and can be found in the vasculature of some tumours and in regions of atherosclerosis.

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging: Dr Gemma Figtree (2008-2010)

Dr Gemma Figtree

A Sydney Medical School Foundation grant to Dr Gemma Figtree assisted with the establishment of the new Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (CMRI) Research Unit, based at the Kolling Research Institute, Royal North Shore Hospital.

The combination of a new CMRI facility and the team of physicians and scientisits it has brought together will support advances in CMRI at the level of acquisition, analysis and clinical application.

CMRI has the potential to privide optimal diagnostic and research information with minimal exposure of the patient to radiation or invasive procedures, however, the application of MRI to the heart is still evolving.

The genetic basis of heart disease: Associate Professor Christopher Semsarian (2007-2010)

Professor Chris Semsarian

With the help of a Sydney Medical School Foundation grant, Professor Semsarian's team have made a number of important advances in both the identification of specific genes linked to heart failure and sudden death in the young, and understanding how these genes cause disease.

Recent success has been achieved with the development of a novel model which replicates severe heart failure in humans. This world first model was published in the prestigious cardiovascular medical journal Circulation, and is being used to identify key molecular steps involved in the development of heart failure, and to use this knowledge to develop new treatment and prevention strategies.

Biochemistry in vascular medicine: Professor Roland Stocker (2007-2009)

Professor Roland Stocker

Professor Roland Stocker's laboratory investigates processes related to the hardening of the blood vessels, a disease called atherosclerosis.

During the course of their research, the group discovered that increasing the activity of a protein, known as heme oxygenase-1, protects the body's arteries from becoming diseased. Under his Sydney Medical School Foundation Fellowship, Professor Stocker and his team are trying to understand how this enzyme protects against atherosclerosis, and how this property can be used for drug development.

Cardiovascular research development initiative: Dr Ryuichi Akawa (2008), Dr Martin Ng (2008-2009) & Dr Rajesh Puranik (2008)

Dr Ryuichi Akawa & Dr Martin Ng

In 2007 Sydney Medical School Foundation agreed to support the Faculty of Medicine's cardiovascular research development initiative. Dr Ryuichi Aikawa, Dr Martin Ng and Dr Rajesh Puranik, were each awarded a grant in 2008 based on their innovative proposals for combating cadiovascular disease.

Dr Aikawa's gene therapy approach holds promise for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. In recent work, Dr Aikawa found that growth hormone expression by adeno-associated virus improves cardiac function post-myocardial infarction.

Dr Ng continues his work which saw him awarded a Medical Foundation start up grant in 2007. The projects seeks to develop highly biocompatible metallic stents to treat coronary artery disease and elastin-based synthetic conduits/arteries for bypass surgery.

Dr Puranik's study involves the completion of a cardiopulmonary exercise test, heart ultrasound and MRI scan on adult patients who were born with Tetralogy of Fallot. The aim is to develop less invasive tests for these patients and obtain information for determining the optimal time to implement various procedures and surgeries that this complicated group of patients frequently need.

Bioengineering synthetic arteries and devices: Dr Martin Ng (2007)

Dr Martin Ng

In 2007 Dr Martin Ng recieved a start up grant from Sydney Medical School Foundation to support a collaboration with Professor Anthony Weiss (biochemistry) and Professor Marcella Bilek (applied physics) which aimed to develop highly biocompatible materials for cardiovascular conduits and next generation cardiovascular devices.

Current synthetic conduits for vasuclar bypass surgery are stiff and highly thrombogenic, making them unsuitable for all but large calibre vascular drafting. In recent work, Dr Ng has found that synthetic elastin not only has favourable physical properties but also very favourable biological properties, including very low thrombogenicity and the capacity to facilitate biocompatible cell interactions.

Atherosclerosis: Professor David Celermajer (1996-2002)

Professor David Celermajer

Professor David Celermajer and his team have made major discoveries and advances in the field of atherosclerosis research, at the molecular and cellular level, in human physiology research and in clinical trials. The aims of the research program, funded by Sydney Medical School Foundation, have been directed towards the early detection and prevention of atherosclerosis, which remains the chief cause of morbidity and mortality in Australia and the developed world, and has a rapidly increasing prevalence in the developing world.

Professor Celermajer’s research has had a major influence in determining public policy concerning passive smoking in the workplace in several countries, and has led to the greater understanding of cellular processes, and to defining factors that might reverse early vascular damage associated with cigarette smoking.

Other research has demonstrated that the male sex hormone androgens could accelerate atherosclerosis in males, and explain the gender difference in heart disease in the community.

Important research on the effect of nitric oxide on high blood pressure in the lungs in children with congenital heart disease, after they have had surgery, has provided for an important advance in the intensive care of these children.

Prevention and treatment of heart and vascular diseases: Professor Stephen MacMahon (1999-2001)

Professor Stephen MacMahon

Professor MacMahon’s studies have produced important evidence about the causes, prevention and treatment of common cardiovascular diseases, and thousands of individuals from both developed and developing countries have benefited as a consequence.

A grant from Sydney Medical School Foundation enabled Professor Stephen MacMahon to establish the Heart and Vascular Disease Program of the Institute for International Health. This program is now fully self-funded, but the Foundation’s support was crucial in this development.