Fresh discovery relating to heart disease

12 November 2014

UC biological sciences research student Edward Marks has made a fresh discovery into heart disease issues, which has earned him an award for scientific innovation.

University of Canterbury biological sciences research student Edward Marks has made a fresh discovery into heart disease issues, which has earned him an award for scientific innovation.

Following blockage or damage to an artery during cardiovascular disease, the artery can sometimes recover to supply blood to the down-stream tissue. Remodelling of blood vessels normally occurs to heal or bypass the damaged artery, potentially restoring blood flow to the affected area. SFlt-1 is a protein found in blood and associated with the controlling of new blood vessel development.

Marks has found that patients with elevated levels of sFLT-1 in their blood have less chance of recovering from a heart attack. This may be in part due to the process of sFLT-1 grabbing and removing the proteins which contribute to artery growth.

Marks also showed that the levels of sFlt-1 were associated with high levels of a chemical released by active inflammatory white blood cells indicating an association between cardiovascular disease, inflammation and sFLT-1. This supports the notion that cardiovascular disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder, not just a result of cholesterol build up.

For this in-depth investigation Marks was awarded the Powerhouse prize for innovation presented at the university’s School of Biological Sciences annual postgraduate conference.

Marks’ research was led by Associate Professor Steven Gieseg at the University of Canterbury and Dr Barry Palmer at the University of Otago’s Christchurch Heart Institute.

The patients in the study were recruited by the Christchurch Heart Institute, under the direction of Professor Mark Richards. SFlt-1 is a promising biomarker under study internationally, for use with heart patients and complications of pregnancy.

In a second study, blood plasma was donated by the Department of Vascular Surgery at the Christchurch Hospital, under supervision by Professor Justin Roake. Blood plasma was taken from patients undergoing surgery to remove an inflammatory cardiovascular blockage in their carotid artery leading to the brain. This showed that in these patients sFLT-1 and inflammation were significantly elevated when compared to apparently healthy controls.

The testing of the key protein (sFLT-1) is currently being used in cardiovascular disease research and another test relating to the protein is underway looking into complications during pregnancy.

However, a clinical test to be used for early warning of cardiovascular events is yet to be established.

This highlights the value of the data obtained by the Canterbury research team. Later this month Marks will present his findings at the Australian Atherosclerosis Society meeting in Adelaide.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications 
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz