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Dr Ashish Misra, leader of the Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling Unit at HRI, was recently awarded his second Perpetual IMPACT grant.

Dr Misra’s research focuses on improved understanding and potential treatment of atherosclerosis, a progressive disease where fatty plaque builds up in the arteries.

“Atherosclerosis is the main underlying cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the leading cause of death globally,” says Dr Misra.

If we could better understand this devastating disease, we could potentially develop improved treatment methods that could save thousands of lives worldwide.”

Dr Misra will build on his groundbreaking discovery in 2018 that changed our understanding of the way atherosclerosis progresses. Until then, smooth muscle cells (SMCs), found in the blood vessel wall, and their role in atherosclerotic plaque development were not much appreciated. Dr Misra revealed that in a developing plaque, very few ‘stem-cell like’ cells contribute to the plaque and convert into both disease-promoting and disease-protective SMC, which make plaque unstable. If unstable plaque ruptures, this could lead to heart attack.

Previous research by Dr Misra’s collaborators, Associate Professor Sanjay Patel, Coronary Diseases Group leader at HRI, and Professor Peter Thompson, University of Western Australia (UWA) Medical School, Internal Medicine, has demonstrated the protective effects of the commonly used drug colchicine to significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks. However, the mechanisms underpinning colchicine’s protective effects in CVD are virtually unknown.

Dr Misra’s recent research has now established the anti-inflammatory effects of colchicine in helping to reduce cardiovascular risk. In addition, Dr Misra has found that colchicine stabilises the diseased arteries so that they have less risk of rupturing and causing heart attack.

Supported by this new IMPACT Grant, Dr Misra will investigate the mechanisms underlying the suppressive effects of colchicine as well as combination therapies using colchicine. This will aid in further understanding how atherosclerosis advances in people, and potentially reveal more effective ways to suppress disease progression.

Developing a low-cost, effective therapy for atherosclerosis would reduce CVD, including amongst those at highest risk such as remote Indigenous communities, and have a huge impact worldwide,” says Dr Misra.

The Perpetual IMPACT grant is funded by the Walter and Eileen Ralston Trust, and The Alma Hazel Eddy Trust.

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