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New prothrombotic mechanism linking diabetes to cardiovascular disease

Heart Research Institute & University of Sydney

  • Cardiovascular Senior Researcher Grant
Organ System:
  • Cardiovascular
Date Funded:
  • 22 May, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Professor Shaun Jackson

Project summary

Understanding why these patients are at greater risk of developing blood clots and dying from cardiovascular disease.

What is the issue for NSW?

Described as the epidemic of the 21st century, diabetes represents a serious healthcare problem globally, and the biggest challenge confronting the Australian health system. A large proportion of deaths (70%) associated with diabetes can be attributed to the development of blood clots in the circulation of the heart and brain (heart attack/stroke).

Both conditions are typically caused by clots that block the supply of blood to the heart or brain. Blood thinners are commonly used to prevent clots with millions of people worldwide taking them daily to keep strokes and heart attacks at bay. However, in individuals with diabetes, not only is the blood clotting mechanism ‘hyperactive’ for reasons that are unclear, the benefits of standard blood thinning therapies like aspirin and Plavix are also limited. Diabetic individuals don’t respond as well to standard blood thinning drugs like aspirin and Plavix that are used as standard therapy for treating blood clots.

With 1.2 million people with diabetes in Australia, there is urgency to understand why these patients are at greater risk of developing blood clots and dying from cardiovascular disease.

What does the research aim to do and how?

Professor Jackson’s research team has studied the blood of people with diabetes and unexpectedly discovered a new pathway responsible for triggering the formation of blood clots, demonstrating that disturbances in blood flow (biomechanical forces) can activate blood clotting cells, leading to growth of bigger clots. While this process occurs in all individuals, the clotting cells of patients with diabetes are exquisitely more sensitive to these mechanical forces, triggering larger blood clots. How blood clotting cells can sense disturbances in blood flow, and why this process is altered in diabetic individuals to cause the formation of dangerous blood clots that cause cardiovascular disease is an important area of study which will be addressed in this proposal.

Professor Shaun Jackson is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, faculty member at the prestigious Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, San Diego (CA, USA), and recently appointed to the title of Honorary Visiting fellow at the University Cambridge, School of Clinical Medicine, within the Department of Haematology.

Professor Jackson established his independent research laboratory in the Monash Department of Medicine at Box Hill Hospital in Victoria (1998–2003). In 2004 he moved to the Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, where he co-founded and became Research Director of the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases. He is a founder of Kinacia, an Australian biotechnology company developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic products aimed at preventing blood clotting. In 2013, he was appointed the inaugural Director of Cardiovascular Research, HRI & Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, where he remains to this day.

Professor Jackson’s research interests are focused in the area of atherothrombosis and cardiovascular disease.