20 December 2002

A new $2million research centre at the University of Queensland could reduce Australia’s spiralling rates of cardiovascular disease through early detection.

The Centre of Clinical Research Excellence in Cardiovascular Disease and Metabolic Disorders will be set up at UQ’s School of Medicine at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in 2003, following a five-year funding grant from the Commonwealth Government.

Centre staff are developing cardiovascular imaging techniques that enable abnormalities to be detected in the heart and blood vessels, before the development of serious disease.

Early detection would allow interventions that could greatly improve the outcomes of patients with diabetes, hypertension and renal disease.

Centre Director, Professor Tom Marwick, said the research could have dramatic effects on the rates of cardiovascular disease, Australia’s number one killer.

“We currently have an epidemic of cardiovascular disease in this country,” he said.

“It’s widely acknowledged that we have to act to identify and treat the disease before it becomes clinically apparent. Early detection, before symptoms appear, could change the course of disease.”

Professor Marwick said Centre research would also focus on reducing the progression of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases through lifestyle intervention, especially in patients with diabetes.

“People with diabetes are at great risk of developing heart diseases, such as coronary and large vessel disease,” he said.

“One of the areas we’re looking at is the role of insulin resistance in the development of abnormal cardiac and vascular function. Obesity has a pivotal role in the development of insulin resistance, and even modest weight loss improves its metabolic complications.

“We’re currently evaluating a program that will teach and promote the benefits of physical activity and dietary intervention for diabetic patients. It will be home-based, and we’ll supervise patients through telemedicine.”

Associate Professor John Prins, Director of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Princess Alexandra Hospital, is a Principal Investigator in the Centre.

He said he was optimistic that the results of the program would be complementary to those achieved with current treatment approaches.

“The problem facing patients with diabetes and/or obesity is that their cardiovascular disease often remains asymptomatic and undetected for long periods of time,” he said.

“Current management of these patients relies on treatment rather than prevention, so a program aimed at early prevention of disease should provide substantial long-term benefits for the patients and the community.”

Centre researchers would also use the new imaging techniques to monitor the effects of the prevention measures, he said.

The new Centre brings together five expert groups of medical and allied health researchers from throughout the University of Queensland.

Media: Further information, contact Professor Tom Marwick, telephone (07) 3240 5346 email: tmarwick@medicine.pa.uq.edu.au