Funding to tackle growing heart disease among children

29/04/2021 | 3 mins

Scientists at The University of Western Australia and Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute have been awarded $500,000 to develop new treatments for the world’s leading cause of cardiac death among children.

The funding boost from global biotechnology company CSL will be used to further research into hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – also known as ‘big heart syndrome’ – which affects children between five and 15 years old.

“Right now, we have no way of preventing or reversing damage to the heart. All we can do is alleviate the symptoms.”

Professor Livia Hool

Professor Livia Hool, from UWA’s School of Human Sciences, said the award would help build on previous breakthrough discoveries and could prevent and even reverse the damage of the inherited disease, which causes the heart to become dangerously large.

“Almost one in 500 people are affected by the disease, but this number is growing and could be as common as one in every 200 people,” Professor Hool said.

“Right now, we have no way of preventing or reversing damage to the heart. All we can do is alleviate the symptoms.”

“This funding will make a huge difference to the lives of people not only in Australia but around the world and provide hope to families who live with this condition every day.”

Professor Livia Hool and her team at UWA discovered that by using a medication to target a calcium channel in the heart, clinicians could not only prevent the disease from occurring but may also be able to reverse it.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be incredibly aggressive in children but also causes sudden cardiac arrest in otherwise healthy adults.

“There are tens of thousands of Australians who have no idea they have this disease. If we could deliver a treatment and a way to reverse the damage to their hearts, this could save many lives,” Professor Hool said.

“The funding from CSL will allow us to continue on with this vital work which is hugely exciting and incredibly welcome.”

It’s hoped the funding from CSL’s Research Acceleration Initiative will pave the way for human trials which could start in the next three to five years.

CSL’s Research Acceleration Initiative aims to fast-track the discovery of innovative biotherapies through partnerships between CSL and global research organisations. The partnerships provide funding and access to industry resources for scientists working on novel biotherapeutic strategies in CSL’s therapeutic areas.

Media references

Nicholas Smith, UWA Media Officer, 08 6488 1888 / 0411 644 492

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