Gene Identification: Implications for susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes


Everyone knows that our risk of heart disease increases if we smoke, get fat, don’t exercise, and don’t control our blood pressure. Getting fat and lack of exercise also increases the risk of diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of heart and kidney disease. However, more than 50% of our risk of heart disease and of diabetes is inherited – “it runs in the family” scenario. For most patients we have little or no idea of the specific genes that are causing the inheritance of heart disease or diabetes. Individually each gene has only a small effect, but when many bad genes are added together the overall effect becomes significant and causes heart disease or diabetes.

The project

What makes this project exciting is that recent advances in technology for detecting genes and measuring their activity have suddenly made it much easier to identify genes that contribute towards disease processes generally, and especially heart disease and diabetes. Our world-class researchers are now able to sequence and measure the activity of the genes from a patient within a few weeks and at a reasonable cost.

Sydney Medical School and its affiliated research institutes are investing in facilities that will enable us to advance in our discovery of the elusive bad genes and the way in which these problem genes are controlled (referred to as epigenetics). Sydney Medical School now needs to recruit expertise required to narrow down the search for these genes.

We urgently need funding for a Professorial Chair in Molecular Genetics (Epigenetics) to allow us to make significant advances in our understanding of the complex genetic basis of heart disease and diabetes.


Discovery of the elusive problem genes contributing to heart disease and diabetes will help patients at a number of levels – genetic profiling to identify risks, early interventions by health professionals and targeted drug therapy. Taken overall, the discovery of more of the elusive bad genes that contribute to heart disease and diabetes will have a major impact of saving lives and decreasing the burden of heart disease and diabetes in our community.

Proposed Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Construction works have commenced on a major new teaching and research facility at the University of Sydney.

Fundraising target: $1,100,000 (five years)

Project leader: Professor David Cook,
Academic Director, Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease.