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10th February 2017

Research to Fix a Broken Heart

FEBRUARY 28, 2018: ADELAIDE, SA. Researcher Sven Surikow, who is part of a team which is leading research to treat Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (TTC), pictured with patients Marjorie Jones and Bob Kelly at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia. (Photo by Naomi Jellicoe / Newspix)
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With your support, research at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI) is leading the way in understanding the heartbreaking condition of Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy (TTC), commonly known as ‘broken heart syndrome’ and ‘Stress Cardiomyopathy’.

Discovered over 20 years ago in Japan and often misdiagnosed as a form of heart attack, TTC occurs when the heart’s left ventricle, the main pumping chamber, is ‘stunned’ and does not work properly.

Thanks to your support, researchers at the BHI have come so far in their understanding of TTC leading to improving diagnosis of the condition.

Triggered when a person goes through severe emotional or physical stress, like the loss of a loved one, currently there is still no treatment available for the heartbreaking condition.

Fortunately, PhD student Sven Surikow is determined to change this! He’s been hard at work developing a potential therapy to speed up people’s recovery from TTC, which if successful will be the first of its kind internationally.

“Up until five years ago the general consensus was that TTC resolved itself in about a week and was not that serious. We have learned it only appeared that way, the heart beat was going back to normal but the energetics within the heart could actually take from three months to a year or more to recover. This meant patients were still experiencing symptoms for up to a year,” Sven explained.

“The aim of my research is to find a new therapeutic treatment that will accelerate this recovery without causing the patient any other side effects.”

The need for new treatments for TTC could not be more crucial, with the condition not only becoming increasingly more common in Australia but also having a significantly high recurrence and mortality rate.

In order to develop these potential therapies, Sven first had to understand what is happening to the heart when a person undergoes an emotional or physical stress and is diagnosed with TTC.

“Based on past research we know when people experience physical or emotional stress they release huge amounts of adrenaline-like chemicals called catecholamines into the heart, which in turns stuns the heart’s muscles and causes TTC,” Sven said.

“Through our research we’ve discovered the release of these adrenaline-like chemicals results in inflammation of the heart.

“What we don’t know is what is causing this inflammation and how we can reduce it to not only help patients heal faster but also reduce the number of deaths as a result of TTC.”

Over the past two years Sven along with his supervisors at the BHI has been testing two therapies in which he’s had varied results, but is set to investigate a third this year he is hopeful will have the right result for TTC patients.

“With the results we’ve received from testing those therapies we can now suggest this new therapy may improve both heart function and inflammation.

“If this proves correct and this therapy is successful, we’re hoping it will go on to reduce morbidity and mortality of patients who are living with TTC.”

Looking to launch this phase of his PhD early this year, we look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of Sven’s research!

“It’s so important that we figure out a treatment that actually works for patients with TTC. I think the condition will only continue to become more prevalent as people start to understand it better.”

Thanks to you support, research like Sven’s into the heartbreaking condition of TTC will only continue to grow and ultimately improve the quality of life of people living with the disease.

Block quote: Did you know? 90 per cent of broken heart syndrome patients are women over the age of 50-years-old.