A patient is checked for heart disease by a doctor

Two Murdoch Children’s Research Institute researchers have been awarded fellowships to further their research into better understanding and treating heart diseases.

The Heart Foundation has granted both Dr James McNamara and Associate Professor Mirana Ramialison Future Leader Fellowships. Associate Professor Ramialison also received the Shirley E Freeman Innovation Award, awarded to the two most outstanding female Fellows. The award is named in honour of Dr Freeman AM, the first woman to receive research funding from the Heart Foundation.

Associate Professor Ramialison’s research project will aim to identify new genetic causes of congenital heart disease, a condition where one or more problems with the heart structure are present at birth.

In Australia, one in every 100 children are born with congenital heart disease, making it one of the most common birth defects.

Understanding the underlying causes of congenital heart disease is critical to the development of preventive healthcare and avoiding a lifetime of medication and heart devices and potentially a heart transplant. However, the causes of congenital heart disease remain largely unknown.

As congenital heart disease affects different domains of the heart, Associate Professor Ramialison’s research will unravel what triggers various cardiac abnormalities.

The project will create a “road map” of the heart to enable rapid identification of specific cardiac defects, which will empower personalised diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Dr McNamara’s project will work to define novel causes of inherited cardiomyopathy using human stem cells in the lab. 

Genetic cardiomyopathy, a group of conditions that cause abnormal growth and pumping of the heart muscle, affects up to 35 million people globally. 

“Often going undiagnosed and with limited treatment options, the need for new therapies for these patients is pressing,” Dr McNamara said. 

“This project will build on a decade of pioneering research into inherited cardiomyopathy and uses human stem cells engineered in the lab to better understand the causes of the condition and what controls heart function.”

In the latest round of funding, The Heart Foundation is supporting 73 research projects that will leverage Australia’s scientific expertise to save more lives from cardiovascular disease.