HeartKids funds 7 new research projects to the value of $290,000

HeartKids marks ten years of funding critical research into childhood heart disease by backing seven new research projects for 2017.

29 March 2017

HeartKids is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its commitment to research with the announcement of seven new projects as part of its Grants-in-Aid program.  Childhood heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death of Australian children under the age of one and HeartKids is the only research funding body in Australia that specifically drives research into the causes, treatment and management of CHD, which has no known cure.

Yves clinical shot

Since 2007, HeartKids has invested more than $3.5 million dollars into 44 research projects as part of its two research programs – Grants-in-Aid and Project Grants.  HeartKids research projects range from basic and clinical science to public health and health services.

Mark Brooke, CEO, HeartKids, said: “The Grants-in-Aid program was established by HeartKids in 2011 with the support of the program’s founding partner, Wilson HTM Foundation (now Pinnacle Charitable Foundation).  Grants-in-Aid is designed to support smaller research initiatives of $20,000 up to $50,000 that are completed in a shorter timeframe of 12 months.  hese differ from our Research Project Grants which support large research projects over a two or three-year period.

“In 2017, we’ll be funding seven wide-ranging projects to the total value of $289,000 that include research into the treatment plans of children who have undergone Fontan operations, to a study into the link between genetics and CHD, and an exciting study that aims to better understand the long-term risks in Kawasaki disease, the most common cause of heart disease that is acquired in childhood.  We’ll also be funding experiential research into modelling CHD in dish using induced pluriopotent stem cells and state-of-the-art sequencing technology.  Other important research will examine the burden of rheumatic heart disease, a trial to help improve outcomes after cardiac surgery in children, and a study into the genetic changes that contribute to hypertension using genome sequencing,” said Mr Brooke.

To honour the 10th Anniversary of the HeartKids Research Program and acknowledge the tremendous progress made towards greater understanding and improved treatment of CHD, HeartKids is pleased to announce Professor Yves d’Udekem as the first recipient of the inaugural HeartKids Roll of Honour Award.  Professor d’Udekem will receive his award at the official 2017 Grants-in-Aid Research Awards Presentation in Melbourne on Wednesday, March 29.

Every day, eight babies are born with childhood heart disease and every week four lives are lost.  There are currently more than 32,000 adult Australians who have lived with a heart defect since childhood.  While surgery is not a cure, 50 per cent of those born with congenital heart disease will require an operation before their first birthday.

The HeartKids 10th anniversary research milestone comes after a highly successful year for the charity that has seen it consolidate into a national not-for-profit organisation and complete a highly successful national fundraising and awareness campaign, Sweetheart Day.


HeartKids can connect journalists with families affected by CHD and medical professionals who can speak on the subject.

For interviews, further information or images please contact:

About HeartKids

HeartKids Australia is a registered national health charity. Working with health professionals, HeartKids provides lifelong support for those with childhood heart disease and their families Australia-wide. HeartKids also funds life-saving research, advocates and informs. To date, HeartKids Australia has committed more than $3.5 million to fund research into the causes, treatment and management of childhood heart disease.

2017 Grants-in-Aid Project Summaries

ACE inhibitor cessation in the setting of well-functioning Fontan hearts

Principal Investigator Professor Yves d’Udekem
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Project Description
This will study the impact of angiotensin receptor inhibitors (ACEI) cessation in children and adults with a Fontan circulation and normal heart contraction. Many children born with a single cardiac pumping chamber undergo a Fontan operation. Due to concerns about potential late heart failure, many are prescribed ACEI although they have good heart function, possibly exposing them to unnecessary risk of adverse drug reactions and the important burden of lifelong medication. Evidence has shown ACEI are of benefit in a failing 2-ventricle heart, but there is no literature to suggest they are of benefit in the Fontan circulation.

Clinical and Genetic Studies in Children with Left Ventricular Noncompaction Cardiomyopathy (LVNC)

Principal Investigator Professor Chris Semsarian
Centenary Institute

Project Description
Heart disease in children results in significant symptoms and can ultimately led to heart failure and premature death. One form of heart disease in children relates to abnormalities in the structure and function of the heart muscle, so called “left ventricular noncompaction cardiomyopathy” (LVNC). This is a common cause of heart failure, particularly in young children, and is associated with a wide variety of manifestations and outcomes. Understanding the genetic basis of LVNC is important to facilitate more accurate and earlier diagnosis, and in helping to predict clinical outcomes in children with this cardiomyopathy type. The proposed study will use the latest genetic technologies to identify the causes of LVNC in children. The study will improve our knowledge of heart disease in children, and directly impact on how we diagnose and treat children and their families with inherited cardiomyopathies such as LVNC.

Mechanisms and predictors of cardiovascular risk in children following Kawasaki disease

Principal Investigator
Professor David Burgner
Institution Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Project Description
Kawasaki disease, the commonest cause of heart disease acquired in childhood, affects approximately 300 Australians annually. It is a life-threatening but poorly understood illness of preschool children that damages the coronary arteries in 25% of untreated cases. We have recruited children with previous Kawasaki disease and controls to investigate if they have an underlying ‘hardwired’ immune problem, and the long-term cardiovascular risk. This exciting study leverages our [missing details here]

Kawasaki disease cohort and uses novel methods to address these important research questions. Our aim is to understand the mechanisms and long term risks in Kawasaki disease, leading to new diagnostics and interventions.

Modelling CHD in a dish using IPS cells and massively parallel sequencing

Principal Investigator Richard P. Harvey, PhD FAA FAHMS FRS
Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

Project Description
Modern technology allows us to transform skin cells into stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which can be experimentally driven into cardiomyocytes (i.e., hearts in a dish). We now have unprecedented power to experimentally investigate the mechanisms of congenital heart disease (CHD) in a patient-specific manner – a first step towards personalised medicine. We have created iPSCs from 10 families with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLH), one of the most severe CHDs, representing a unique resource for Australia. We will use state-of-the-art sequencing technology to identify the molecular changes in HLH and devise new screening tools to catalogue disease.

Burden of rheumatic heart disease: comprehensive measurement to drive the Endgame

Principal Investigator A/Prof Judith Katzenellenbogen
Institution The University of Western Australia

Project Description
Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) rates among Indigenous youth are the highest in the world. However, national estimates and health outcomes in children affected by ARF and RHD are not well measured in Australia due to fragmented information. This project will link hospital, surgical, death, and treatment information from multiple datasets in order to estimate the burden of RHD among Australian children for the first time. Results from this project will be used to develop a comprehensive roadmap for government to end RHD as a public health problem in Australia.

Nitric Oxide to reduce cardiopulmonary bypass-induced inflammation after cardiac surgery in children

Principal Investigator A/Prof Luregn Schlapbach, FCICM

Institution The University of Queensland

Project Description
Each year, over a thousand children born with congenital heart disease in Australia require surgical intervention. Most surgical procedures for CHD require the use of cardiopulmonary bypass (“heart lung machine”), which can lead to harmful inflammation in the patients. Preliminary data suggest that adding low amounts of Nitric Oxide (a medical gas) to the bypass circuit, leads to better patient outcomes, likely because of reduced inflammation. This study will test in a multisite randomized-controlled study if the use of nitric oxide reduces inflammation after cardiopulmonary bypass in children. This trial aims to improve outcomes after cardiac surgery in children.

Early detection of hypertension in aortic coarctation using genome sequencing

Principal Investigator Professor Fadi Joseph Charchar
Federation University Australia

Project Description
Aortic coarctation (narrowing of the aorta) occurs in 5-10% of all children with congenital heart disease and requires surgery soon after birth. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of these patients is reduced as up to 75% may develop high blood pressure later in life, increasing their risk of heart disease. Using new technologies, we want to investigate the genetic changes that contribute to the development of hypertension in coarctation patients. These genetic changes will allow us to determine which patients will likely develop hypertension so we can initiate early treatment to prevent the development of hypertension and ultimately reduce premature death.

Heart Kids | Australia