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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Dr Waled Shihata and Professor David Kaye

Clinical studies from our group have shown women who have had more than two pregnancies are at higher risk of developing a sub-type of heart failure known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). HFpEF accounts for over 50% of patients with heart failure and current therapies and treatments are ineffective. HFpEF typically occurs in older women who present with other clinical disorders including high blood pressure (hypertension). Importantly, high blood pressure can be caused by detrimental lifestyle choices and behaviour such as lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits, which are highly prevalent during pregnancy and may continue after child birth. The cellular mechanism(s) by which multiple pregnancies establishes an environment of increased risk for HFpEF is not known.

This project will examine the relationship between pregnancy history in mice and cardiac remodelling during aging and hypertension.

Project summary

This project seeks to uncover the cellular mechanisms behind the increased risk of heart failure development in older women who've had multiple pregnancies in their lifetime.

Clinical studies conducted by our group have measured exercise intolerance and a number of biomarkers to assess heart failure risk. The current project will assess these parameters in aged female mice who have had no pregnancies and multiple pregnancies. Furthermore, the effects of pregnancies in combination with cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure will also be investigated. Finally, the cellular interactions that are responsible in part to the underlying risks associated with "pregnancy-induced heart failure" will be explored.

Understanding the mechanisms behind this phenomena and identifying an effective treatment is critical given Australia's growing ageing population as the number of people with HFpEF will significantly increase over time. The findings from this project will confirm our findings from our patient study and warrant further research into pregnancy-related complications and risks that may impact older women.

It is suitable for an Honours or Masters student and will involve applying various skills and techniques, including:

  • preclinical procedures
  • immunocytochemistry techniques
  • flowcytometry
  • molecular biology
  • Western blots
  • data analysis
  • PCR.

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