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20th December 2022

Fighting to Alleviate Chest Pain Through Zinc

Associate Professor Rosanna Tavella and Dr Tharshy Pasupathy

Dr Tharshy Pasupathy and Associate Professor Rosanna Tavella are investigating whether zinc supplements can help people living with chest pain from Angina with Non-Obstructive Coronary Arteries, otherwise known as ANOCA. 

There are limited treatment options available to people living with ANOCA, meaning they continue to endure the symptoms of chest pain, a heavy weight on their chest, shortness of breath and exhaustion. 

Dr Pasupathy and A/Prof Tavella are hoping their research into zinc can help people like Julie. 

At 72 years of age, Julie was well into a fun-filled retirement with travel, adventure and precious time with her grandkids when she was diagnosed with Coronary Slow Flow Phenomenon – a type of heart disease that presents in a similar way to ANOCA. 

“I was on holiday with my friends in the Flinders Rangers and walking back to our accommodation when I started experiencing chest pain. I had never felt that kind of pain before,” Julie said.

“When I got back from our trip, I mentioned it to my doctor and he sent me off for a stress test, and it all went from there.” 

The cardiologist thought Julie may have a blocked artery, but after a follow-up angiogram Julie was given the all clear. 

Like people living with ANOCA, Julie has no blocked arteries. In both cases, the chest pain is because of sensitive heart arteries, making them more reactive or stiff than normal and causing disturbances in blood flow. 

If unmanaged, the pain can severely decrease quality of life and means people like Julie are forced to adjust their lifestyle in fear of the debilitating heart pain, or worse, a life-threatening heart attack. 

“I find I can get breathless, but I also have constant angina-like pain. It feels like an elephant sitting on my chest,” Julie said.

Dr Pasupathy, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at The University of Adelaide, and A/Prof  Tavella, a Clinical Data Manager at Central Adelaide Local Health, are hoping to fill the treatment gap for ANOCA patients by investigating whether zinc supplements are a possible option to alleviate chest pain. 

“Traditional anti-anginal medications are available but they don’t work for all patients,” Dr Pasupathy said. 

“Recent research in our lab has shown that zinc may have an important role in maintaining normal function of blood vessels and that many patients with angina have zinc deficiency.”

While research into heart disease management has come a long way in recent years with lifesaving therapies for patients with cholesterol blockages in the heart’s blood vessels, people living with ANOCA and other types of heart disease without blockages have limited treatment options. 

“Patients with ANOCA need our research just as much, so we can improve their health outcomes and quality of life,” A/Prof Tavella said. 

Dr Pasupathy and A/Prof Tavella are preparing to undergo a new clinical trial to further understand the role zinc supplements play in managing chest pain symptoms. 

Ongoing support from generous donors is crucial in the fight to explore new treatment options and continue clinical trials. 

These clinical trials may be the key to relieving chest pain and saving the lives of our loved ones from heart disease. 

It’s not too late to donate! Support Dr Pasupathy and A/Prof Tavella’s lifesaving research and donate online here.