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Heart research wins major funding boost

Thursday 5th June 2008

Heart research wins major funding boost

Heart research at the University of Otago, Christchurch has received major funding in this year’s Health Research Council round with $2.35 million being granted over the next three years.

The new funding is for a three year programme grant for the internationally renowned Christchurch Cardioendocrine Research Group led by Professor Mark Richards, and a two year project grant.

The programme grant of nearly $2 million, is for research into ‘Neurohumoral and genetic prediction and protection in heart disease’. This research will concentrate on the further development of an improved ‘tool kit’ to predict risk, onset and progression of heart disease through the development and use of blood biomarkers, cardiac imaging and gene typing of patients.

The investigators will complete recruitment of 2000 heart patients, plus another 3000 matched subjects free of disease as comparison.

The project grant will investigate the use of a recently discovered blood circulating factor, Urocortin 2, in improving treatment of acute heart failure which results in 11,000 admissions to hospital every year and significant readmissions. Urocortin 2 has already been shown to have beneficial effects in the management of heart failure.

The internationally respected Free Radical Research Group has received $3.1 million over three years for two projects. Professor Christine Winterbourn will lead a team investigating how white blood cells kill invading bacteria. Much is known about this process, but the finer details of exactly how neutrophils kill bacteria and the consequences of any subsequent chronic inflammation are still not clear.

This knowledge will assist in the development of strategies for overcoming bacterial resistance. In particular, the group will focus their attention on why white blood cells fail to clear infections in the lungs of children with cystic fibrosis.

Dr Mark Hampton’s project will examine the ability of proteins called peroxiredoxins to work as antioxidants in the body. His team is particularly interested in finding out whether peroxiredoxins inside red blood cells can remove the damaging oxidants produced during infection. The study will also investigate the role of peroxiredoxins in controlling cell death.

Professor Evan Begg and colleagues from the Clinical Pharmacology Research Group have been granted $326,366 to study ‘Free drug metabolic clearance in older adults’.

This research aims to determine more accurately, through a sensitive new technique, whether or not there should be consistent medication dose reductions for older people because metabolic elimination of drugs decreases with age. At present the best approach for drugs eliminated by metabolism is not clear.

Dr Rebecca Roberts is one of the investigators in a major new programme grant at the University of Otago Dunedin, looking at the ‘Application of genetics to the pathogenesis of common chronic conditions’. She will be studying how genes influence susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease.


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