Cardiovascular disease affects one in every six Australians – meaning over 4.2 million people and their families have felt its terrible consequences.
The disease can manifest in many ways, including heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease (PAD).
In PAD, blood flow to the limbs is reduced due to narrowed arteries. When circulation is cut off, the limb develops gangrene and starts to decay and die. There is no cure for gangrene. The only treatment option is to amputate the affected limb to prevent the gangrene from spreading further in the body.
Shockingly, every three hours in Australia, one person has an arm or leg amputated due to PAD. With one Australian developing diabetes every five minutes, this rate will continue to climb, says Dr Mary Kavurma, HRI research group leader.
In addition, diabetes-related amputations and associated costs place a $875M burden on the Australian healthcare system every single year.
We have made a groundbreaking discovery that could reverse the need for limb amputation in people living with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With your support, we can take this research to the next phase.
Dr Kavurma and her Vascular Complications research team have discovered that a molecule called TRAIL (Tumor Necrosis Factor-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand), which occurs naturally in the body, is suppressed in people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Importantly, increased levels of TRAIL can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and dramatically improve blood flow to the limbs.
In cutting-edge research, we are working to identify a drug that improves TRAIL levels in people with PAD, so that new blood vessels can grow – meaning we could bypass the narrowed arteries and restore blood flow to the limbs.
This would help protect people with PAD from developing gangrene and needing amputation.