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Supporting emerging talent

Three New Zealand PhD students have been awarded Heart Foundation Postgraduate Scholarships to further their studies in heart disease.

Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore is a PhD student at the Department of Medicine, Otago University. Matthew is the recipient of a 2022 Postgraduate scholarship grant from the Heart Foundation to further his research on aortic valve disease.

Aortic valve disease is a condition affecting the valves in the heart, from a mild thickening (aortic sclerosis) to the complete hardening of the valves (aortic stenosis) which can lead to angina, heart failure and premature death. Little is known about how quickly those with mild disease progress into more severe forms.

University of Otago PhD candidate and fourth-year Medical Student, Matthew Moore will embark on research which aims to quantify how quickly those with mild disease progress to requiring a valve replacement and to quantify their risk of death. The study also aims to look at how levels of a particular fat in the blood called lipoprotein(a) are related to aortic valve disease.

Matthew’s study will help inform doctors about how often those with mild aortic valve disease need to come in for check-ups.

Samuel James

Samuel James is a PhD student at the Department of Physiology, University of Auckland. Samuel is the recipient of a 2022 Postgraduate scholarship grant from the Heart Foundation to further his research on diabetic heart disease.

University of Auckland PhD candidate, Samuel James is part of a research group that has recently identified that the diabetic heart stores and processes sugar differently from healthy hearts and discovered a previously unknown sugar processing pathway in the heart. His PhD is working to characterise this process and identify novel treatment targets to test potential new therapies. His goal is to better understand the mechanisms of diabetic heart disease and discover novel treatment options to support those with the condition.

The hope long-term is that this research will help reduce heart complications including heart failure in diabetic patients, improving their quality of life.  More than 300,000 people are currently diagnosed with diabetes, a condition which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Māori and Pacific Island populations are disproportionately affected by diabetes and experience almost three times the number of cases and six times the mortality rate of other ethnicities.

Ceridwyn Jones

Ceridwyn Jones is a PhD student at the Faculty of Science, Victoria University. Ceridwyn is the recipient of a 2022 Postgraduate scholarship grant from the Heart Foundation to further her research on the cellular effects of heart disease.

Lack of oxygen to the heart muscle during a heart attack can cause significant damage to cells. Like other muscles in the body, swelling or inflammation then occurs as part of the body’s natural repair mechanism.

During the body’s natural response to injury, white blood cells gather near the damaged region of the heart and begin to clean up dead cells. However, it was recently discovered that if too many of these white blood cells gather, strands of DNA from dying cells can cause blood clots which risk causing further damage to the heart.

The problem is that current methods for measuring these potential clot-forming clusters are subject to error. Victoria University PhD candidate, Ceridwyn Jones, is researching to create a new best-practice means of measuring what’s happening and to better their role in the repair process.

If successful, her research will potentially enhance how heart attack patients are treated.

Learn more about 2022 research grants