World-first study in Tasmania to reduce heart attack levels

20 May 2014

Tasmania is renowned for both its red wine and medical innovation.  The two are now being combined in a world-first research study that could start reducing the number of heart attack victims.

The Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust has approved an extraordinary grant of $112,000 to fund ground-breaking research into the impact of a red wine derivative, called Resveratrol, on the function of coronary arteries.

When people suffer from coronary artery disease, their blood vessels become blocked and oxygen fails to get to the heart.

The pilot study will involve 36 patients at the Launceston General Hospital who have suffered a heart attack or angina, and subsequently had their blocked arteries opened with a stent.

The study, led by acclaimed interventional cardiologist Associate Professor Brian Herman, will measure the function of the lining of the blood vessels, called the endothelium, to see how it dilates under stress and allows blood to pass through to the heart muscle. Abnormalities in the endothelium, or endothelial dysfunction, contributes to the development of coronary artery disease.

Then, for 12 weeks, half of the participants will be given a daily dose of a tablet called Resveratrol. The other half will be given a placebo.

After 12 weeks, the blood vessel lining function will again be tested to see if the arteries perform better under stress.

Resveratrol is a natural occurring substance found in grapes and red wine, along with other berries.

Previous studies of this kind have only been carried out on animal models.

“This would be the first direct study of its kind on human coronary arteries,” Prof. Herman said.

“Endothelial dysfunction is one of the earliest manifestations of coronary artery disease. Damage to arteries is caused by oxidative stress so presumably an anti-oxidant will stop the progression of damage and hopefully reverse it.

“If this pilot study yields positive results, it may clearly pave the way for a much larger trial looking at long term clinical outcomes for patients, which could lead to Resveratrol becoming a new medical management tool for patients with heart disease.”

Chief Executive of the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust, Peter Milne, said the work being carried out by Prof. Herman and his colleagues was significant.

“We are extremely proud to fund the initial trial,” Mr Milne said.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a cardiologist with his expertise here at the LGH and many critically ill Northern Tasmanians have benefited from the acute surgery he performs to remove blockages in their coronary arteries.

“Therefore, it is vitally important that we support and encourage the research initiatives being undertaken by the high calibre medical professionals that work here in our local hospital.”

Mr Milne said the Trust had committed to raising the $112,000 funding needed for the project.

“It is one of the largest individual research grants the Trust has ever funded,” Mr Milne said.

“Given there are over 500 people who come through the LGH each year requiring surgery for coronary artery disease, the positive implications from this very important research project could be enormous.”

Mr Milne called on the community to support the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust to raise the funds for the research project and said they would be launching an appeal.

“The new research of Prof Herman would not be possible without the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust and the wonderful supporters who contribute financially to the Trust, knowing that it supports talented Tasmanian researchers who are attempting to change the world’s health for the better,” Mr Milne concluded.