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Dr Ashish Misra has secured funding through a Vanguard Grant to launch an exciting new two-year medical research project called ‘Nanomedicine to treat advanced atherosclerotic plaque’.

Atherosclerosis is the scientific term for when fatty plaque builds on the artery walls. It is the primary cause of coronary artery disease, a leading cause of death and disability in Australia and the world. The atherosclerotic plaque builds up and can rupture, forming a blood clot that can travel to either the heart – potentially causing a heart attack – or to the brain – potentially causing a stroke. Existing treatments for atherosclerosis have side effects, are not always effective and can adversely affect patient quality of life.

This project is the first of several research steps to identify and treat unstable plaque before it ruptures into a blood clot, thus preventing heart attack and stroke. One focus of Dr Misra’s team will be plaque inflammation, which can determine plaque rupture. They will also investigate a novel target, a molecule known as TGFβ (transforming growth factor beta), which they previously discovered can regulate plaque inflammation and act as a predictor of patients who are vulnerable to plaque rupture.

The research has two aims and expected outcomes. The first is to measure TGFβ levels in coronary blood samples to understand levels of local atherosclerotic disease. This would enable earlier identification and treatment of patients who are at high risk of plaque rupture through a simple blood test. The second is to provide proof-of-concept that nanomedicine can safely and cell-specifically target inflammatory plaque cells to stabilise unstable plaques.

“I am extremely grateful to the Heart Foundation for funding the Vanguard Grant for this research,” says Dr Misra.

This Grant will enable us to explore an inno­v­a­tive con­cept and stretch the field of ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis research to ulti­mate­ly improve clin­i­cal care.”

Dr Misra is Unit Leader of the Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling team at the Heart Research Institute (HRI) and is dedicated to understanding the genetic and molecular pathways in atherosclerosis. The team will be working with Professor Sanjay Patel, Leader of the Coronary Diseases Group at HRI and cardiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Dr Sophia Gu of UNSW, an expert in nanotechnology, will also be participating in the project.

The Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant provides funding to researchers to help them test the feasibility of innovative concepts.

Header image: Dr Ashish Misra


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