VasoActive - Cardiovascular Research | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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VasoActive - Cardiovascular Research

VasoActive - Cardiovascular Research Group


Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for more deaths than any other cause and contribute substantially to the overall burden of disease worldwide. Furthermore, vascular dysfunction contributes to the physical and cognitive impairments associated with ageing. The USC Cardiovascular Research group has a focus on the mechanisms of vascular function, and the development of natural therapies and exercise interventions. The group form part of the Sunshine Coast Cardiovascular Research Collaborative, which brings together biomedical and clinical researchers in cardiovascular health from USC and the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service.

Theme: Vascular tone and blood flow

Studies focus on determining the mechanisms of cardiovascular function in health, and how these are altered and may be targeted in disease.
Theme leader: Associate Professor Shaun Sandow, PhD

Studies aim to determine some of the ways that cells in arteries communicate with one another and specifically, at how cells control the balance between the way that arteries narrow (constrict) and enlarge (dilate). This balance is referred to as vascular tone and is the main determinant of blood pressure and flow, and thus of cardiovascular disease. Coordination of vascular tone is dependent on signals passing through junctions within and between the cellular layers in arteries. Using anatomical, functional and molecular methods, our studies identify the fundamental pathways that underlie blood flow, and how these may be altered and targeted for
correction in disease.

Some current project areas include:
Pregnancy and hypertension: Identifying differences in microdomain signalling mechanisms in the uterine microvasculature of normal compared to pre-eclamptic and gestational hypertensive pregnancies, including treatment with pravastatin (with the University of New South Wales, and Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney; University of Queensland, Brisbane; University of Ohio, U.S.; University of Melbourne and Monash University, Melbourne).
Migraine: Familial Hemiplegic Migraine type 2 due to -2 Na+/K+-ATPase mutation 1, 2-Na,KATPase and Kir 2.1 expression and their implications for cerebral artery function and migraine etiology (with University of Aarhus, Denmark).
Stroke: Mechanisms of ischemic stroke (with the University of New South Wales, Sydney; and University of Aarhus, Denmark).

Theme: Natural therapies for cardiovascular disease

Our group is investigating medicinal properties of naturally occurring compounds in fish oils and bee products.

Theme leader: Dr Fraser Russell

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an inflammatory cardiovascular disease that is associated with increased risk of aortic rupture and death. Patients are managed at an early stage of disease with a “wait-and-see” approach, as drug therapies often lack efficacy. We are examining whether the anti-inflammatory and pro-resolving properties of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC n-3 PUFAs) and their metabolites can be exploited to reduce the severity of disease. We are undertaking an efficacy trial in which patients with AAA are randomized to receive LC n-3 PUFA capsules or placebo. The study is investigating the effect of the LC n-3 PUFAs on anti-oxidant enzyme systems within immune cells and the change in concentration of blood biomarkers of AAA in response to treatment.

Our other main research interest is in determining the wound-healing potential of compounds within a resin that is produced by Australian stingless bees. This resin, called cerumen, contains several hundred compounds. Our group is using bioactivity-guided fractionation to identify compounds that are beneficial in a wound-healing setting. It is envisaged that this research may help patients who have chronic wounds that are refractory to standard care therapy.

Projects available:

  • Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on vascular inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Determination of the wound-healing potential of Australian stingless bee cerumen

Theme: Exercise and vascular health

Our research aims to improve the health and function of older adults and patients with cardiovascular disease through experimental investigations of cardiovascular dynamics, studies of novel treatment and exercise rehabilitations strategies, and clinical trials.

Theme leader: Associate Professor Chris Askew

Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for more deaths than any other cause and contribute substantially to the overall burden of disease worldwide. Furthermore, vascular dysfunction contributes to the physical and cognitive impairments associated with ageing.

Some of our current project areas include:

  • Effect of exercise on inflammation and vascular stiffness in people with abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)

  • Combining exercise and vascular surgery to improve microvascular function in patients with peripheral arterial disease

  • Understanding the brain blood flow responses to physical and mental challenges in older adults

  • Understanding the impact of corrective surgery on vascular function in children with sleep-disordered breathing

  • The effect of passive therapies (e.g. heating, cold-water immersion, passive movement) on vascular and microcirculation function.

Theme: Blood management in cardiac surgery

Theme leaderAssociate Professor Lin Fung

Bleeding during cardiac surgery is common often requiring blood transfusions. In addition, patients who are anaemic prior to surgery have a higher likelihood of needing a transfusion. While blood transfusions can be lifesaving, there is growing evidence that transfusion itself has associated risks such as – circulatory overload, acute lung injury, alloimmunisation, immunomodulatory effects and risk of infections.

The OptiBlood research group is working with blood management teams at The Prince Charles Hospital and Sunshine Coast University Hospital to develop and implement strategies to better manage the patient’s own blood, so as to reduce or avoid transfusion. To achieve this, we have research collaborations:

  • Identifying more effective ways to implement blood management in cardiac surgery units.
  • Investigating blood use in Older patients who are the largest blood user age group in Australia.
  • Applying artificial intelligence to guide blood management.
  • Transferring blood management strategies from cardiac surgery to other surgical settings (e.g. orthopedic).

We welcome high degree by research inquiries as well as new collaborations in this area.