Dr Giannie Barsha – Looking at a solution to prevent heart failure and improve survival rates in heart attack patients.

Dr Giannie Barsha is working with Professor Gemma Figtree on the BioHEART project which aims to better understand how heart attacks are happening and who are the people at risk of having them.

Every year around 60,000 Australians will have a heart attack. For those who are lucky to survive the potentially fatal event, 1 in 2 will die within 5 years due to another heart attack or from heart failure, even if they’ve had surgery or medical treatment. One of the main reasons for this lies in the body’s own immune response.

A heart attack triggers a strong inflammatory response at the site of injury, that is critical for the repair and regeneration of heart tissue. But the problem arises when this inflammatory response goes into overdrive, causing severe scar formation and enlargement of the heart, which can lead to heart failure. Anti-inflammatory drugs have been developed to prevent this from happening, but to date, have proven to be of little benefit and they come with severe side effects.

Dr Giannie Barsha and her team have received HROz funding to test a new drug called PKT Inhibitor X, which has a better safety profile than previous anti-inflammatory drugs and is designed to be better absorbed. This drug targets the P2X7 receptor – the protein that drives the inflammatory response in the body. The team will test whether PKT Inhibitor X can block the P2X7 receptor in the heart, to suppress inflammation and promote healthy healing of the heart, following a heart attack. Outcomes from this study will offer a new solution to prevent heart failure and extend survival in heart attack patients.


To read more about the research Heart Research Australia is funding click here.

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