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Hearts and eyes: more in common than you think

image-tools (75)CERA researchers Professor Gregory Dusting and Dr Hitesh Peshavariya have been awarded a Heart Foundation Grant-in-Aid. Grants-in-Aid support biomedical, clinical or public health research relevant to cardiovascular disease and related disorders.

Heart attacks that often lead on to heart failure remain the leading causes of death and poor quality of life in Australia. Stem cells derived from blood vessels can be used to reduce the damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack by forming new blood vessels in the damaged tissue, even helping heart muscle to regrow. However, how these cells actually work in this setting has remained poorly understood.

This two year grant will allow Professor Dusting and his team to progress their research on a protein that can enhance the repair functions of stem cells after a heart attack. The researchers will determine whether novel drugs can boost this protective protein and enhance the results of stem cell therapy for heart attack patients.

They hope that this research will provide pointers to new drugs that may be tailored more specifically to improve the outcomes of heart attack with stem cells, and also help the heart repair itself, just like repair of other wounds.

“At first glance, people often ask; what does heart research have to do with eye research? The answer is that this work can be readily translated into eye disease,” explains Professor Dusting. “The healing process that occurs after a heart attack is similar to the mechanisms taking place in repair of retinal function. Electrical activity in the heart has mechanisms in common with that in the eye, and stem cell therapy may well work in a similar way in both organs too.”

“By taking a holistic approach to our research and looking at similar processes happening in different areas of the body, we are tackling these growing diseases in a new way,” said Professor Dusting.


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