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Heart proteins to treat heart disease

Dr Nicola Scott has received a Heart Foundation research grant to investigate a newly discovered heart protein that could be used to treat a debilitating heart condition.

Increasing the levels of a natural protein found in the heart and blood vessels could be a new way to treat heart failure, one of New Zealand’s most debilitating heart conditions.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively around the body and can result from damage to the heart muscle caused by heart attack.

The recent discovery of a protein called osteocrin (OSTN), present in heart and blood vessels, could form the basis of a new treatment for heart failure, and potentially a diagnostic test as well.

Christchurch Heart Institute(CHI) Research Fellow, Dr Nicola Scott, has received a grant for a two-year research project to investigate the role that OSTN plays in increasing levels of hormones that improve heart health.

“We’ll be looking to see if administering OSTN can improve the symptoms and severity of heart failure and if levels of OSTN are directly related to the degree of heart failure,” explains Nicola.

“OSTN is one of a family of heart hormones called natriuretic peptides, whose actions work against some of the damaging effects of heart failure and can delay the progression of the disease,” she says. “OSTN increases the levels of these peptides and, as a result, their beneficial effects.”

She will also investigate whether levels of OSTN in the blood could be used as a simple test for the diagnosis of heart failure.

Personal impact of heart disease

Nicola knows all too well the impact of heart disease, losing her own father to a heart attack when she was just 12 years old. She has been working in heart research since completing her honours degree in 2003. In 2004, she was the recipient of a Heart Foundation-funded PhD scholarship.

She hopes her research, supported by the Heart Foundation, will improve the lives of New Zealanders living with heart failure and other cardiac conditions.

“For me personally, the Heart Foundation has underpinned my research career. The Heart Foundation recognises the value of basic research, and supports local researchers in the global research environment. This is a team effort, and the Heart Foundation has been very supportive of me and my colleagues and we really value that support. They’re a very generous and positive research funder and I know this reflects the generosity of their donors and supporters who give to the heart health cause.”

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