New drug trial to reduce Australia's biggest killer

Friday, 30 November 2007

University of Adelaide cardiologists have won more than $500,000 to help fund heart research projects over the next two years, including the use of a drug that may reduce the size of a heart attack.

Dr John Beltrame has been awarded $128,400 as part of a $6.7 million National Heart Foundation (NHF) grants program for 2008 and 2009, supporting more than 50 projects.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital cardiologist and University of Adelaide senior lecturer is investigating the use of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) as an effective agent in reducing the intensity of heart attacks and improving patient survival rates.

"This trial will examine whether the infusion of this drug in patients experiencing a heart attack can reduce its size as assessed by state-of-the-art cardiac magnetic resonance imaging," Dr Beltrame said.

Professor Stephen Worthley, a Helpman Professor of Cardiology at the University of Adelaide, will use his $129,000 grant to study the effect of rapid weight loss through diet on cardiovascular health.

"We know that obesity leads to abnormalities in how the blood vessels and the heart function," Dr Worthley said. "While improvements in these abnormalities have been reported with marked weight reduction through surgery and exercise, it is not clear at this stage whether they can be substantially reversed with a sensible diet."

The other two grant recipients are Professor John Horowitz and Dr Glenn Young.

Professor Horowitz, Head of Cardiology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, will continue his research into why the aortic valve narrows - a frequent reason for replacing heart valves in the elderly.

"At present, approximately 40% of Australians can expect to develop aortic valve narrowing some time during their lives, so it is very important to stop the valves from degenerating. A model of valve calcification will be investigated in this study," he said.

Dr Glenn Young's team has received a $122,000 two-year grant to look at the potential benefits of fish oil in preventing serious heart rhythm disturbances.

"As fish oil is inexpensive, has minimal side effects and is freely available, any anti-arrhythmic effects that we may be able to demonstrate could have implications for widespread use in our community," Dr Young said.

The NHF funding has been allocated to researchers across Australia to undertake important projects relating to heart, stroke and blood vessel disease.

"Cardiovascular disease is Australia's biggest killer and our greatest health challenge," says Dr Chris Latif, Research Program Manager for the National Heart Foundation.

Up to 38% of all deaths in Australia are due to heart, stroke and blood vessel disease, with one Australian dying from one of these causes every 10 minutes.


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