Centenary Institute takes out heart award

18 March 2011

Professor Jennifer Gamble, head of Vascular Biology at the Centenary Institute, has received the 2011 National Heart Foundation Ross Hohnen Award for her work on the surprising, positive changes ageing has on special blood vessel cells known as endothelial cells.

The Centenary Institute is an independent medical research institute affiliated with the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. The Award recognises Professor Gamble's Ageing and the Vascular System research as the year's top grant-in-aid project to receive funding from the Heart Foundation's highly competitive research program.

National Heart Foundation of Australia CEO, Dr Lyn Roberts, said the award "is given to the most innovative and outstanding research project each year. Among a very strong field, Professor Gamble's research on ageing and the vascular system stood out as the project that could provide insight into some unique ways to reduce the suffering caused by cardiovascular disease."

Professor Gamble and her team have been investigating what happens to blood vessels with age and how this contributes to the development of heart disease. In particular, they have been studying endothelial cells, which make up the thin inside lining of the blood vessel wall.

Professor Gamble said: "We have identified a particular gene that can be used to artificially 'age' these endothelial cells so we could test the effects these aged cells have on heart health. Much to our surprise, we found that changes brought about by this 'ageing' process were positive rather than damaging. This suggests that endothelial cells may actually play a role in protecting blood vessels from heart disease as we age."

"We will use the funding from the Heart Foundation Grant-in-Aid and Ross Hohnen Award to find out more about ageing endothelial cells and their protective properties. Our findings may lead to a better understanding of the development of heart disease and the discovery of new ways to prevent or delay it. With an ageing population, this research could reduce the social and economic burden of heart disease in the future."

Centenary Institute Executive Director and co-investigator of the grant Professor Mathew Vadas said: "Receiving independent recognition from the Heart Foundation that this is one of Australia's best cardiovascular disease research projects is a major achievement for Professor Gamble and the Centenary Institute. Additionally, funding from organisations such as the Heart Foundation is critical to conducting leading medical research, particularly at a time when Government funding is likely to come under pressure."

Media enquiries: Tanya Sarina, Centenary Institute, 9565 6228, 0431 029 215,