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The Heart Research Institute, in partnership with major NSW hospitals, universities, and other research institutions, is striving to unravel the deadly link between the coronavirus (COVID-19) and cardiovascular disease.

Mounting evidence from numerous countries has revealed that individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes are more likely to develop serious complications from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV2), requiring hospitalisation and intensive medical care. As a result, the death rate in these individuals is considerably higher than in people without cardiovascular disease.

This has spurred a major research effort by HRI and the medical specialists at the frontline of care for COVID-19 patients. Identifying the factors that put people at high risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19 is now a major focus of the institute. HRI is establishing an extensive network of clinicians and researchers to tackle the complex issues facing our COVID-19 infected patients. Clinical partner Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) has the most extensive intensive care unit in NSW and will be at the forefront in the management of the most seriously ill patients.

Clinician-scientists at HRI are co-ordinating research efforts across Sydney to ensure the key stakeholders have come together to undertake this research.

HRI Director of Cardiovascular Research, Professor Shaun Jackson, says:

At a time of such crisis it is imperative that our research workforce work hand-in-hand with our clinical colleagues to better understand the nature of the COVID-19 disease, identify high risk individuals, and develop the necessary tests, treatments, and vaccines to thwart this terrible pandemic”.

Specific projects underway include:

  1. Understanding why over half of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients develop heart failure and rhythm disturbances in the heart – Cardiometabolic Disease Group in collaboration with Dr Sean Lal, The University of Sydney
  2. The interaction between COVID-19, myocardial ACE2 receptor, hypertension, and diabetes – Cardiometabolic Disease Group in collaboration with Dr Sean Lal, The University of Sydney
  3. Investigating whether COVID-19 induces blood clotting in the lungs and hearts of seriously ill patients and whether this contributes to cardiovascular death – Thrombosis Group in collaboration with clinicians at RPAH
  4. Investigating the role of COVID-19-induced inflammation in cardiovascular damage – Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling, Haematology, and Vascular Complications Groups
  5. Peptide specific blocking of the COVID-19 interaction with the ACE2 receptor to prevent cardiovascular complications – Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling, Cardiometabolic Disease, Cardiovascular-protective Signalling and Drug Discovery, and Vascular Complications Groups

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