Dr John O’Sullivan awarded 2021 Vanguard Grant

Congratulations to Dr John O’Sullivan on being awarded a Vanguard Grant for his research on “Replenishing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide to rescue heart failure with preserved ejection fraction”.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), also known as “stiff” heart failure, is now the most common form of heart failure worldwide. The prognosis for people with HFpEF is dire – patients are only expected to survive around two years after diagnosis. Despite this, there remain very few treatments.

Dr O’Sullivan, Clinical-Academic Cardiologist and leader of the Cardiometabolic Disease Group at HRI, has discovered that a vital molecule called NAD is depleted in heart tissue in HFpEF, but not in other types of heart failure. This deficiency was replicated in in vivo models, and further experiments showed that replenishing this molecule rescued stiff heart failure.

“This is an exciting discovery, and with the support of the Vanguard Grant, we can now test this strategy in patients suffering from stiff heart failure,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

In this collaboration with Dr Sean Lal (The University of Sydney) and Professor David Kay (Alfred Hospital, Melbourne), blood samples will be collected and analysed from HFpEF patients recruited from clinics in Sydney and Melbourne, to examine the role of the NAD molecule more thoroughly. The team will also investigate whether the heart’s levels of NAD can be replenished in patients with HFpEF.

“This research will provide novel insights into HFpEF and how to clinically manage it, as well as open a pathway to developing better treatments that could save lives,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

The Vanguard Grant is funded by the Heart Foundation. It provides funding to test the feasibility of innovative concepts in clinical, public health and/or health services (including clinical service delivery) or biomedical research which may lead to larger, more rigorous studies in the future. These projects are expected to produce tangible outcomes with the potential to further advance preclinical research technology or improve cardiovascular health.

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