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Starving for oxygen

University of Sydney

  • Cardiovascular Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant
Organ System:
  • Cardiovascular
Date Funded:
  • 22 May, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Kristina Cook

Project summary

The role of hypoxia inducible factor in the development of heart failure.

What is the issue for NSW?

Heart failure affects more than one million Australians, a third of whom live in NSW. It is a syndrome caused by structural or functional abnormalities of the heart which results in tiredness, fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling, which are chronic, worsen over time and result in poor quality of life.

Up to half of all heart failure patients have normal contraction, but impaired relaxation. This condition, known as “Heart Failure with preserved Ejection Fraction” or “HFpEF”, has a poor prognosis and causes a significant number of potentially avoidable admissions to NSW hospitals. There are currently no effective therapies for HFpEF and we lack a clear understanding of how it develops. Common risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, increasing age and obstructive sleep apnoea.

What does the research aim to do and how?

The goal of this project is to better understand the biological basis of HFpEF, in particular the role of tissue hypoxia (low oxygen) as well as sleep apnoea, and develop new targeted therapies. The role of a key signalling protein, known as Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) will be studied. HIF is likely to play an important role in heart failure. Cardiac injury, heart muscle hypoxia and intermittent hypoxia from sleep apnoea cause changes in HIF, which may alter metabolism and growth of the heart muscle, leading to HFpEF.

We anticipate that an understanding of the biological basis of HFpEF will lead to new drugs to be trialled in human heart failure. Early effective intervention is paramount in order to reduce the considerable human cost and impact of HFpEF on the community.