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Developing and validating a new assay for the detection and prediction of gardiometabolic disease

Heart Research Institute

  • Early-Mid Career Fellowship
Date Funded:
  • 31 May, 2018
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. John O'Sullivan

The purpose of this research project is to develop and validate a blood test that can be widely used, e.g. hospital outpatients, and general practitioner offices, to detect a new molecule in blood that we discovered. It will indicate whether a patient has liver fat and whether they are at risk of developing diabetes, which frequently leads to heart disease and stroke.

We are facing a global epidemic of obesity and related diseases. Almost three-quarters of Australians are now overweight or obese, and childhood obesity is at an all-time high. Overweight and obese people have a high risk of developing fatty liver disease and/or type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver disease is often the first stage leading to type 2 diabetes, and puts patients at increased risk of fat deposits in their blood vessels that may cause heart attacks and strokes, which are the most common causes of death in these patients.

We are failing to prevent the catastrophic obesity epidemic. It is a global challenge. The numbers are far greater in developing countries. In China, for example, 114 million people have type 2 diabetes and half a BILLION have prediabetes. These staggering numbers underscore the enormity of this healthcare challenge globally.Although obese people with diabetes most commonly die from heart attacks and strokes, the rate at which this occurs is highly variable, and until now, we cannot predict who is most at risk and who will have an event.

Our results indicate that the new blood molecule discovered by us can predict, more than a decade in advance, who will develop diabetes. This is tremendously important, as it will allow us to target those most at risk with interventions to prevent them from developing diabetes, thereby reducing complications such as heart attacks and strokes. It has been repeatedly shown that the best way to prevent diabetes and its complications is early intervention – by the time of diagnosis a lot of damage has been done, most of it irrevocably.

The way we currently measure this molecule is not widely accessible, limiting its availability to populations that need it most. In this project, we aim to develop a test that can be used everywhere — even at the bedside, outpatients, general practitioner offices — and will be fast, precise, and reliable. We will ensure that the public, patients, and clinicians are fully aware of all aspects of this assay.

Note: This project received project funding only. This project did not received full Fellowship funding.