Investigating new therapies that can prevent blood clotting

Heart attacks and stroke are the leading causes of death and long-term disability in Australia. These diseases are typically caused by the development of clots within the blood circulating through the heart or brain.

‘Blood thinners’ (anti-clotting agents such as aspirin and Warfarin)are commonly used to prevent disease-causing blood clots… however they can cause serious complications themselves in specific high-risk patients, leading to life-threatening bleeding episodes.

Our Thrombosis Group has been investigating new therapies that can prevent blood clotting without increased bleeding.

They have previously identified an entirely new class of anti-clotting medicines that target an enzyme called ‘PI 3-kinase’. These PI 3-kinase inhibitors are highly effective at preventing disease-causing blood clots without increasing bleeding. These new therapies have recently been trialled in humans and have been shown to be safe and effective anti-clotting agents.

Thrombosis Group Leader and Director of Cardiovascular Research at The Heart Research Institute, Professor Shaun Jackson and his team, have been working with colleagues Dr’s Justin Hamilton and Jessica Mountford at Monash University, together with a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Walter and Eliza Institute in Melbourne and the Blood Transfusion Centre in France. 

In an important breakthrough, they have identified a new mechanism regulating blood clotting: another PI 3-kinase family member called Class II PI 3-kinase. The function of this enzyme has been a mystery for decades, but Dr Jackson’s team has discovered a new process by which PI 3-kinases regulates blood clotting.

“This is an exciting area of research, as new medicines that inhibit PI 3-kinases represent one of the most promising new ways of treating certain types of cancer, inflammation and heart disease”, said Prof. Jackson.

The discovery that PI 3-kinases are critical for blood clotting is a major Australian discovery with many groups around the world now focussed on this important area of medical research.

Senior Researcher, Imala Alwis, was involved in the study and is enthusiastic about the outcome. “We are really excited about these results,” he said. “It has been a privilege to be part of such a ground breaking study and I look forward to continuing with this important work and exploring the many potential discoveries we hope are just around the corner.”

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