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Dr Mary Kavurma has been awarded an Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA) Research Catalyst Grant for her research into peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a type of cardiovascular disease where blood flow to the limbs is reduced due to narrowed or blocked arteries (atherosclerosis). When circulation is cut off, the limb develops gangrene and starts to decay and die. The only treatment option is amputation to prevent the gangrene from spreading further in the body.

In Australia, a limb is amputated every two to three hours due to cardiovascular disease – and having diabetes elevates this to every 30 minutes.”

“We need to find a way to treat PAD and prevent these devastating consequences for the patient,” says Dr Kavurma, leader of HRI’s Vascular Complications Group.

An alternative approach to treating PAD is to stimulate the growth of new micro blood vessels in the body to bypass the blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the affected limb. However, clinical trials have shown these newly formed blood vessels are unstable.

Finding a drug therapy for PAD that increases stable blood vessel formation and enables blood flow that could prevent amputation, would be life-changing for these patients,” says Dr Kavurma.

“But to develop new therapies, we first need greater understanding of the disease itself.”

Dr Kavurma’s project, entitled “Single cell transcriptome profiling of diabetic peripheral artery disease” will investigate how genes regulate cell-cell interactions to promote stable micro blood vessel networks. This multidisciplinary collaboration between Dr Kavurma, HRI’s vascular biologists, clinical, bioinformatics and genomics colleagues will potentially lead to the identification of “molecular signatures” of PAD, with and without diabetes, from molecule, to cell, to patient. This knowledge could ultimately speed up diagnoses, improve patient care and allow clinicians to tailor therapies.

The ACvA Research Catalyst Program was established in partnership with Bioplatforms Australia (BPA) to support cardiovascular researchers.

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