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Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AF, is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia and is associated with serious complications including heart failure and stroke, and an increased risk of death. The diagnosis of AF is largely limited to electrocardiograms (ECGs). This method is effective in symptomatic patients with persistent AF. However, it has significant limitations for the diagnosis of early-stage AF, people with intermittent AF, and asymptomatic patients. Holter ECG (24hrs or 7 days) monitoring can increase the chance of detecting early-stage or intermittent AF, however, the long duration of monitoring is often considered inconvenient and initiation relies on the patient experiencing some symptoms.

A number of biomarkers have been examined for their association with this condition however, they have had limited success in detection of early AF. The biomarkers to be examined in this project are newly discovered novel genes (e.g. microRNAs, first discovered in blood in 2008). Assessment of circulating microRNAs and other novel genes is emerging as a useful biomarker in the cancer field, with evidence of improved early detection of some forms of cancer, as well as aiding in the detection of disease relapse. To date, there have been no comprehensive studies in a setting of Atrial Fibrillation.

This study, to be led by Head of the Cardiac Hypertrophy Laboratory, Professor Julie McMullen, aims to identify novel circulating genes which could identify patients with subclinical Atrial Fibrillation and enhance patient outcomes.

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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