The Heart Research Institute (HRI) is using an innovative technology for cardiovascular disease, to discover what happens at the cellular level, using fluxomics to identify and explore the cell molecular fingerprint unique to each person's cardiovascular disease.
The technology, that enables scientists to watch changes in cells in real time, could revolutionise the way cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease, is diagnosed, treated and prevented, making personalised medicine a reality for every heart.
“We need to move beyond systems-reactive healthcare practices, ie, ‘one size fits all’ based on large population groups, to instead, look at how each person is uniquely affected by cardiovascular disease and to understand what happens at the cellular level in each individual,” Dr Tumanov said.
“We need to characterise ‘healthy’ cell metabolism in order to then understand how and when these normal processes go awry. We already know these cellular processes are different in every person, like a unique thumbprint.
Fluxomics already has the ability to screen for changes in molecules which are known to be important for cardiovascular disease. However, to take the next step, researchers need to understand these changes at the cellular level, and how they affect different individuals using emerging technology which enables a holistic, big-picture view of cells.
“Currently, we have static images or snapshots of the cell's genome, proteome and lipidome, whereas fluxomics gives the equivalent of a film or moving picture, demonstrating how the cell changes over time.
“This is particularly important for understanding diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels, which constantly change as the heart beats and the body moves.
“It will help us develop better biomarkers to detect disease at an earlier stage and improve treatments to prevent further damage by giving us greater understanding of metabolism changes in heart disease, allowing us to design treatments which are highly personalised with more impact and fewer side effects.
“We could take a patient sample and run it through a multi-layer system to understand what’s happening within their cells, organs, and the body, to generate a ‘chemical fingerprint’ for that individual. The supporting statistics will allow for data to be extrapolated forwards to predict your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, and what treatments will work best. This is incredibly powerful. And it could all come from a series of simple blood tests.”
Despite medical advances, one in four Australians will die from cardiovascular disease, with one life lost every 12 minutes.
Dr Tumanov said despite the huge impact cardiovascular disease has, experts still do not understand why it develops and progresses differently in each patient.
HRI is calling on donations from the public, as part of their end of year tax appeal, to fund a mass spectrometer – a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that will allow them to deeply analyse molecular changes over time.
The fluxomics machine, which looks like a computer drive and is the size of a small fridge, will create a database of molecular fingerprints that will then help doctors decipher the unique biological needs of each patient for more personalised treatments.
Using the mass spectrometer, Dr Tumanov and his team at HRI will work to unlock some of the key mysteries of cardiovascular research to develop a critically deeper understanding of how and why cardiovascular disease is formed, including why people who lead a healthy lifestyle still get cardiovascular disease, why current treatments work well for some people but not for others, and why women and men develop the disease differently.
For Dr Tumanov, the research is also personal.
“My father has had two heart attacks and a heart bypass, and my grandfather died of a heart attack. Only standard treatment was available to them. We need to understand the unique health needs of each person so that we can give each and every heart the best possible outcome,” Dr Tumanov said.