FSH researcher in bid to get jump on heart attacks

Dr Biyanka Jaltotage stands in front of a computer
Fiona Stanley Hospital researcher Dr Biyanka Jaltotage
May 5, 2020

Western Australians with genetic cholesterol abnormalities that predispose them to early heart attacks are set to benefit from new State Government-funded research.

Fiona Stanley Hospital researcher Dr Biyanka Jaltotage has been awarded a Registrar Research Fellowship to investigate whether heart scans of these already high-risk patients could contain life-saving clues.

Dr Jaltotage will undertake a retrospective analysis of more than 400 heart scans of patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) – an inherited condition that puts individuals at heightened risk of an early heart attack.

The focus of his analysis will be on perivascular (fat that surrounds the arteries) and plaque that has built up inside the coronary arteries of these high-risk patients.

Dr Jaltotage will be looking for two markers – changes in the plaque and composition of perivascular fat. These markers are a sign of coronary artery plaque that is at risk of rupturing – which may increase the likelihood of a clot and subsequent heart attack.

The markers have been effective in identifying those at risk of heart attacks. Now Dr Jaltotage will see if they are just as effective in high-risk populations where perivascular fat is differently dispersed and of a different composition.

The research could lead to more targeted treatments for those most at risk as well as further trials in other populations at high risk of heart attacks, including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis patients.

This project is jointly supervised by Winthrop Professor Gerald Watts and Professor Girish Dwivedi with access to the Western Australian FH database. This database is one of the best in the world, making Western Australia one of the few places where this project could be undertaken.

Dr Jaltotage is among eight researchers awarded a Registrar Research Fellowship and will share in $645,270 in the fourth round of the program.

The program is designed to enhance the research capability of the WA Health Registrar workforce by enabling doctors-in-training to pursue research alongside their clinical duties, all while under the supervision of senior clinician researchers.

See the full list of recipients (external site).

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