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Exploring Strategies to Preserve Ventricular Heart Function in Families who have a Genetic Cause of Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute/UNSW

Grant:
  • Cardiovascular Senior Researcher Grant
Date Funded:
  • 28 November, 2023
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Professor Diane Fatkin

What is the issue for NSW?

Heart failure is a major cause of illness and death. Up to 2% of Australians live with heart failure, which is 40,000 to 160,000 persons in NSW. We know that Dilated Cardiomyopathy is one of the most common disorders that can lead to heart failure. We also know that a person’s genetic makeup is a key factor in determining whether or not they will develop Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Treatment of Dilated Cardiomyopathy involves drug therapies, implantation of devices, and heart transplantation, with frequent cardiac investigations, hospital admissions, doctors’ appointments, and lost productivity. This is all very costly to the healthcare system and NSW taxpayers.

Our research hopes to find new ways to prevent Dilated Cardiomyopathy and heart failure in people who have a high genetic risk. A switch in focus from disease treatment to prevention should save money and save lives, with benefits to patients, relatives and the community in general.

What does the research aim to do and how?

The aim of our research is to find out whether the effects that Dilated Cardiomyopathy-causing gene variants have on heart function are altered by a person’s genetic background, other illnesses and lifestyle. To address this question, we will obtain detailed clinical and genetic information from members of families with Dilated Cardiomyopathy and will evaluate how genes and environment interact in a unique zebrafish Dilated Cardiomyopathy model. A major goal is to determine whether there are genetic or acquired factors (e.g. lifestyle) that are associated with a later onset of Dilated Cardiomyopathy and whether early interventions, such as exercise or heart failure drug therapy, can delay or prevent Dilated Cardiomyopathy.