PhD students are Rising Stars

Congratulations to PhD students Manisha Patil and Ivy Guan, finalists in the NSW CVRN Rising Stars Research competition – the HEART Pitch.

Miss Patil, PhD student in the Vascular Complications Group led by Dr Mary Kavurma, presented the Group’s research aiming to address the complications of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Blood vessels can become blocked by fatty plaque build-up in arteries which can then prevent blood flow to distal tissues and result in gangrene.

Miss Patil draws attention to the similarities between blood vessels and tree branches. “Blood vessels and tree branches are both vessels for nutrient transport. If these vessels become blocked, they can cause disease.”

“Commonly, diseased tree branches can be cut off. In humans, diseased limbs in people with PAD are often amputated – which in Australia occurs every three hours,” Miss Patil says.

“We are investigating how to grow new blood vessels that bypass the blocked site. Our group’s research has discovered a new function for a protein called TRAIL. We have found that TRAIL promotes new blood vessel growth. Our research aims to identify how this happens, so that we can use TRAIL to treat patients with vascular diseases and save them from limb amputation.”

Miss Guan, PhD student in the Cardiovascular-protective Signalling and Drug Discovery Unit led by Dr Xuyu Liu, presented on how natural drugs could be repurposed to treat thrombosis.

Thrombosis (blood clots) can be dangerous and lead to stroke or heart attack if it occurs in the main arteries leading to the brain and heart. However, there are safety concerns around the currently available antithrombotic drugs and their bleeding risk.

“There is an urgent need for new and safe antithrombotic drugs, so our group has sought to investigate drugs derived from healthy diet natural products,” says Miss Guan.

Sulforaphane is a molecule naturally found in cruciferous foods such as broccoli and has been studied for more than 30 years for cancer and inflammatory diseases treatment. It has been found to be cardioprotective and to not prolong bleeding.

“Our group is working on repurposing sulforaphane into an antiplatelet drug to treat blood clots,” says Miss Guan. “The main finding during my PhD research is that sulforaphane can selectively inhibit the ADP-activated platelet aggregation pathway and potentially prevent blood clots.”

Both students found participating in the competition a rewarding experience.

“It was also a great experience to watch other PhD students and early career researchers present their work. I especially enjoyed hearing from guest speaker Jess Ridley on how to present scientific research to lay audiences,” Miss Patil says.

Header image: Manisha Patil

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