“I have always done blue sky research, but on this occasion
we were literally in the sky when we thought of it!”

– Professor Helge Rasmussen

Heart Research Australia supports first-stage research, which is also often described as ‘blue sky’, offering our researchers the opportunity to carry out curiosity-driven scientific research that leads to outcomes not envisaged at the outset.

Professor Helge Rasmussen has dedicated most of his research career to ‘blue sky’ research, and it was back in 2003 whilst reading a medical journal on a flight to the USA that he read about Beta-3 adrenergic receptor (AR) agonist compounds.

It was known at the time that Beta-3 AR agonists can make a ‘normal’ heart beat less intensely, but Helge hypothesized that in abnormal cells, like a failing heart, the opposite might be true.

Helge proved his theory right and found that Beta-3 AR agonist compounds have the potential to improve the heart cells’ function when the heart is failing.  Beta-3 AR agonists are an already approved drug for the treatment of overactive bladders, meaning after extensive laboratory tests, Helge was able to begin prescribing the drug “off-label” for patients with heart failure, once their medical team agreed they had no other treatment options left.

The results were outstanding, with their heart failure symptoms improving dramatically! In some cases, patients who were gravely ill in intensive care, were able to return home after a few weeks in hospital, and are doing remarkably well several years later!

Helge and his team are currently doing a new round of clinical trials of the heart failure treatment in hospitals across Copenhagen, and it is their hope that the trial’s results will allow them to carry out larger definitive trials of this as a treatment for heart failure in Australia and world-wide.

Within some studies, 10% of heart failure patients will die within six months of diagnosis, and 50% will not live beyond five years. The death rate from heart failure is worse than all forms of cancer combined.

Helge says, “I have a huge amount of hope and expectation for this, but you have to do the hard slog and that’s what we’re still doing. If it [the treatment] keeps working this way, then it has made decades of effort worthwhile.”

This is why we need your help.

To make this life-saving treatment available to the many thousands of Australians suffering from heart failure, these further trials need to be done. This type of research does not qualify for government funding, which is why Helge and his team need your support to help them prevent further deaths from this extremely debilitating disease.

Please consider making a generous tax-deductible donation to support research projects that have the incredible potential to save lives.

Every dollar makes a difference, so please give generously.