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Dr Christopher Stanley’s research focuses on cardiovascular decline seen in sepsis, also known as septic shock.

This is a common complication of sepsis and is associated with disruptions in arterial signalling, structure and mechanics, which ultimately contribute to the high fatality rates associated with the condition.

“There is currently no clinical treatment and very little is understood about how sepsis devastates the arterial system and causes such high fatality rates,” says Dr Stanley, leader of the Microvascular Research Unit at the Heart Research Institute (HRI).

Our research will ben­e­fit all Aus­tralians, and par­tic­u­lar­ly Indige­nous Aus­tralians, who are impact­ed by sep­sis at sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er rates than non-Indige­nous people.”

The generous grant provided by the James N. Kirby Foundation will enable the Microvascular Research Unit to establish a custom pressure myograph system capable of high-speed fluorescence imaging and in-depth assessment of arterial function at HRI, consisting of a high-speed microscope camera, multichannel illuminator, light filters and an imaging workstation with sophisticated imaging software.

Pressure myography combined with arterial imaging and electrophysiology are vital tools used to measure arterial function under conditions like those in the body, but these techniques are not yet established in Australia.

This system will be the first of its kind in NSW and will enable the team to learn more about the structure and function of arteries, expanding their understanding of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

This will be invalu­able in adding fun­da­men­tal knowl­edge to sep­sis research, along with the abil­i­ty to assess the effec­tive­ness of poten­tial therapeutics.

With the new pressure myograph system and existing experimental approaches, the team is set to work closely with collaborators at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney to investigate biomarkers of septic shock in those patients within the hospital’s catchment area, with the aim to expand the research to more regional centres. Ultimately, samples will be collated from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients, allowing the team to understand the differences in sepsis between the populations in the hope of developing new treatments in the future.

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