Dr Di Wu – Halting free radicals which alter the sodium pump and can lead to heart failure
Once Heart disease is established it is hard to stop or cure – which is why we need to find ways of preventing it in the first place.
A common feature of heart failure is Cardiac fibrosis, or scarring, and may be triggered by direct tissue injury. This injury can be caused by free radicals which occur as a by-product of oxygen in our biological systems. Sometimes free radicals are essential to normal processes, but at other times, when their production becomes out of control, they can cause disease. It is a common feature in many abnormalities or malfunctions which drive heart failure, that the free radicals alter cellular membrane proteins which are responsible for regulating both electrical and hormonal signalling for normal heart function.
The heart cells contain a pump on the cell wall that controls the movement of certain ions which keeps the heart pumping. Changes to the function of this (sodium potassium) pump by free radicals can create a lot of scar tissue, which means the heart can’t pump as well as it should and can lead to heart failure.
Dr Di Wu, a PhD student from the University of Sydney, who is being funded by Heart Research Australia, has been working on this project working with Professor Gemma Figtree. He is undertaking pre-clinical studies to try a new therapy to stop this process from happening and therefore protect the pump and stop scarring of the heart. The next step will be to develop a new drug which offers protection to the heart pump, thereby halting the development of heart disease.
To read more about the research Heart Research Australia is funding click here.