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Health News

Funding for research into repairing a damaged heart

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A doctor working on repairing heart damaged in a lab.

Funding for research into repairing a damaged heart

 

By Centenary Institute

Research into repairing damaged heart muscle is set to be advanced with the Centenary Institute’s Dr Daniel Hesselson awarded a Cardiovascular Collaborative Grant worth $994,000 under the NSW Government’s Cardiovascular Research Capacity Program.

Heart muscle damage resulting from a heart attack or cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) can lead to reduced heart function and life expectancy as well as decreased quality of life.

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Dr Hesselson’s research aims to address this health issue by enhancing the potency of a promising therapeutic – a protein called Krüppel-like factor-1 (KLF1) – that can stimulate the growth of heart muscle cells. The goal is to improve outcomes, wellbeing and survival of heart patients.

As the Head of the Centenary Institute’s Directed Evolution Laboratory, Dr Hesselson said that the protein KLF1 had been found to be able to renew heart tissue in zebrafish but that it didn’t work the same way on people.

“We hope to be able to use the technique of directed evolution to be able to ‘evolve’ KLF1 so that it can also work with people and potentially regenerate their heart muscle,” Dr Hesselson said.

A doctor working on repairing heart damaged in a lab.

Dr Daniel Hesselson, Centenary Institute.

Directed evolution is a laboratory process that accelerates the natural evolution of proteins by artificial means. It involves repeated screening, selection and then replication of the protein to amplify the desired trait required.

According to Professor Marc Pellegrini, Centenary Institute Executive Director, the successful research grant demonstrated the cutting-edge science that was being conducted at the Institute aimed at advancing heart health across Australian communities.

“Heart attack survivors often suffer lasting heart muscle damage, leading to a weakened heart that increases their susceptibility to other heart-related complications and mortality,” said Professor Pellegrini.

“I commend Dr Hesselson on his exciting work in this important health area. Developing an innovative treatment to help regenerate heart tissue in people has the potential to ultimately improve and save many lives.”

Dr Hesselson said evolved versions of the KLF1 protein would be tested in pre-clinical heart attack models in collaboration with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. The goal will be the production of a therapeutic that is ready for the next stage of the drug development pathway.

 

The NSW Cardiovascular Research Capacity Program funds high quality cardiovascular research in NSW in order to drive scientific discoveries, support the development of novel and innovative therapies, and improve health outcomes for patients with cardiovascular disease.

 

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Health News

New research partnership to tackle hearing loss

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Hearing loss

New research partnership to tackle hearing loss

 

An exciting new collaboration has been established between the Ear Science Institute Australia and the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), uniting Australia’s leading hearing researchers in a concerted effort to enhance treatments for the millions affected by hearing impairments.

National Acoustics Laboratories Director, Brent Edwards, emphasised the significance of the collaboration, stating, “This partnership harnesses the collective expertise of some of Australia’s most dedicated and forward-thinking hearing researchers, all committed to profoundly improving hearing healthcare globally.”

Hearing loss is among the world’s most prevalent health issues, with projections suggesting that by 2050 nearly 2.5 billion individuals will experience some form of hearing impairment. This partnership aims to foster substantial advancements in the quality of life for those affected by hearing loss, both in Australia and worldwide.

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By pooling their vast resources and data, both institutions are poised to transform hearing health care. The Ear Science Institute Australia, recognised globally as a for-purpose center of excellence, combines scientific research, medical innovation, and clinical practice to pioneer new treatments for ear and hearing conditions, ultimately striving to discover a cure for hearing loss.

Ear Science Institute’s CEO, Sandra Bellekom, commented on the future implications of the partnership, “Looking forward, this alliance with National Acoustic Laboratories opens new pathways for sharing knowledge, which will enhance the delivery of cutting-edge, personalised hearing solutions and expand access to superior hearing care for people around the world.”

 

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Health News

Introduction of New Clinical Care Standard by ACSQHC to Address Psychotropic Medicine Use in Cognitive Disability and Impairment

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New Clinical Care Standard

Introduction of New Clinical Care Standard by ACSQHC to Address Psychotropic Medicine Use in Cognitive Disability and Impairment

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has today announced the launch of a pivotal new national standard aimed at enhancing the care for individuals with cognitive disabilities or impairments. The introduction of the Psychotropic Medicines in Cognitive Disability or Impairment Clinical Care Standard is a critical advancement in promoting safer and more effective treatment protocols across the healthcare spectrum.

Background and Rationale for the New Standard

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Recent decades have witnessed a 60% surge in the prescription of psychotropic medications across Australia. Despite a modest reduction in antipsychotic use among the elderly—prompted by heightened awareness of associated risks—the prescribing rates remain alarmingly high, particularly among vulnerable populations. Notably, older individuals and those residing in aged care facilities are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of these medications, including cognitive decline, heightened risk of falls, strokes, and mortality. Additionally, approximately one-third of individuals with intellectual disabilities are prescribed psychotropic drugs, exposing them to potentially severe short and long-term side effects.

Scope and Impact of the Standard

The new Standard seeks to mitigate the inappropriate utilisation of psychotropic medications and emphasises patient safety. It priorities non-pharmacological interventions as the foremost approach for managing challenging behaviours such as aggression and agitation. Psychotropic medications are advised as a last-resort measure, following the ineffectiveness of alternative strategies or in situations posing significant risk to the individual or others.

The Standard advocates for tailored non-medication strategies that respect the individual’s needs and preferences, developed in consultation with their family and other authorised caregivers. This approach underscores the commitment to upholding the dignity and autonomy of individuals with cognitive impairments.

Expert Insights and Support

Key health experts have endorsed the significance of this new Standard. Conjoint Associate Professor Carolyn Hullick, Chief Medical Officer at the Commission, stresses the necessity for mindful prescribing practices given the limited benefits and substantial risks associated with psychotropic medications in this demographic. Professor Julian Trollor from the University of New South Wales and Juanita Breen from the University of Tasmania also highlight the importance of objective-driven prescribing, continuous monitoring, and the potential to reduce medication dosages in favour of non-pharmacological alternatives.

Implementation Across Settings

The Standard is applicable universally across various healthcare settings, including hospitals, aged care facilities, and community services, ensuring that individuals with cognitive disabilities receive consistent and coordinated care irrespective of the setting.

Professor Eddy Strivens emphasises the need for coordinated efforts and effective communication, particularly during care transitions, to maintain continuity and efficacy of treatment plans and to support decision-making processes that honour patient autonomy.

Collaborative Efforts for Enhanced Care

In a collective endeavour to address these issues, the Commission has collaborated with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to issue a Joint Statement against the misuse of psychotropics in managing behaviours in disabled and elderly populations.

Conclusion

The introduction of the Psychotropic Medicines in Cognitive Disability or Impairment Clinical Care Standard marks a significant step forward in improving the quality of care and safety for Australians with cognitive disabilities or impairments. It aligns with ongoing efforts to reform health care, aged care, and disability support systems across the nation.

The complete Standard and accompanying resources are available on the Commission’s website here.

 

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Education

National Walk Safely to School Day Turns 25

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National Walk Safely to School Day Turns 25

 

As National Walk Safely to School Day approaches on Friday, 10 May 2024, primary school-aged children across Australia are encouraged to lace up their shoes for a walk towards a healthier future. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this initiative, championed by the Pedestrian Council of Australia, highlights the myriad benefits of walking and other forms of active transportation, particularly to and from school.

This annual event not only emphasises physical health but also aims to improve road safety, reduce environmental impact, and promote the use of public transport to lessen car dependency near schools. Harold Scruby, Chairman and CEO of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, emphasises the importance of adult supervision for children under 10 when crossing the street, reinforcing the safety aspect of the campaign.

“Walk Safely to School Day is a great opportunity to teach our kids about the benefits of physical activity,” said Scruby. He also pointed to the worrying statistics of childhood obesity, which affects one in four children at critical levels across the nation, according to the latest ABS National Health Survey results from 2017-18. “The best form of physical activity for all Australians is walking regularly. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day,” he added.

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The day is not just about walking; it also encourages schools and parent groups to host healthy breakfast events to start the day nutritiously. This initiative supports the dual goals of fostering healthful eating habits and providing social interaction within the school community.

As the event marks a significant milestone, schools across Australia are gearing up to participate more actively than ever. Parents, teachers, and caregivers are encouraged to get involved, not only to support their children but also to take part in making walking a regular part of their daily routine.

This initiative plays a crucial role in mitigating traffic congestion around school areas, promoting environmental stewardship, and fostering a sense of community. Everyone in the community is invited to support the initiative, helping to instil healthy habits in children that can lead to lifelong benefits.

For more information on how to participate in National Walk Safely to School Day, visit the Pedestrian Council of Australia’s website or contact your local school to see what activities are planned for the day. Join the movement on 10 May and help make a difference in the lives of young Australians.

 

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