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Improving genetic diagnosis in congenital heart disease

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

  • Early-Mid Career Fellowship
Date Funded:
  • 31 May, 2018
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Eleni Giannoulatou

Heart defects are the most common form of birth defects, occurring in ~1 per cent of live born babies. In 80 per cent of families it is not known why they occur. We use the latest technologies to study the genetic code of families with children that are born with heart defects. We aim to identify mutations, i.e. changes in the genetic code that are the cause of these defects.

The genetic code of each individual is stored in large datasets. Our goal is limited by the current methodologies to analyse such large datasets to identify causal mutations. Currently, a large percentage (~70 per cent) of families we study cannot receive a personalised genetic diagnosis. We propose to develop new quantitative and analytical approaches to improve our ability to identify mutations that are the cause of heart defects in every family.

Our research has specific and immediate clinical benefit for the families affected with heart defects that have been recruited. Increasing the genetic diagnosis of heart defects will help more families receive an accurate genetic diagnosis, personalised advice concerning the disease in their family and a better estimate of the risk of having a subsequent child with a heart defect.

Identifying the genetic causes of heart defects not only has benefits for the patient and the family but also for the community. Currently, efforts to identify causes of disease require large costs, and it can include multiple medical screens and procedures. We expect that systematic adoption of genetic testing in clinical practice will improve the financial sustainability of the health system.

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