Heart failure is a major clinical problem affecting 1–3% of Australians. The number of people diagnosed with heart failure is on the rise, due to an ageing population and increased rates of obesity and diabetes, posing a significant healthcare burden. Thus, strategies to protect the heart against insults such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and heart attack are becoming even more critical. My laboratory is focused on identifying genes/proteins that mimic the protective effects of exercise. In an effort to treat patients with heart failure, the majority of investigators have focused on blocking 'bad' genes and signalling pathways in the heart, which largely delays heart failure. By contrast, my laboratory is examining the possibility of activating 'good' genes and signalling pathways that may normally be activated during the induction of physiological hypertrophy (e.g. in the 'athlete's heart').
The Cardiac Hypertrophy Laboratory has previously reported that the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)-phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway plays a critical role for the induction of exercise induced heart growth. Thus, activation of PI3K, or novel regulators of this pathway, represents a promising new strategy to treat heart failure.