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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Mar 27 2020
Many people in our community are feeling worried about COVID-19, our team is here to support you. Please visit our dedicated COVID-19 informati...

Team Harley - City2Surf 2017

Jun 27 2017
Mum Danielle puts it beautifully: "Why we started Team Harley: To raise awareness for Congenital Heart Disease in memory of our amazing...

Halor's story

Jun 23 2017
One of our patients, Halor, was featured on The Children's Hospital at Westmead's Facebook page this week:     ...

Our Research Programmes

Key Philosophy

At the Heart Centre for Children we provide the world's best care for kids with heart problems. We believe this is possible because of the close link between our clinicians and researchers. Our research is translational. This means that all the research we develop is taken straight into our clinical care and treatment.

The latest evidence-based knowledge from our research unit is integrated into the clinical care we provide our patients. Improvements in care and innovations in treatment are immediate. Our research unit, so closely linked to clinical care, can examine problems at the coalface. Solutions are found and brought back to the clinical staff so that children receive the most innovative care available immediately.

All of this means better outcomes for our patients and their families.


Current Research Programmes

Genetics Research Programme

The majority of congenital heart disease (CHD) cases are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The genetic research programme focuses on getting a better understanding of the genetic factors involved and the main aims of our research include:

  • Identifying new genes involved in the development of CHD using powerful molecular techniques, known as next generation sequencing
  • Developing targeted next generation sequencing tools in families with strong histories of CHD
  • Collaborating with local and international research groups in large genome-wide association studies as well as smaller gene screening studies
  • Developing individualised genetic counselling sessions for families with CHD
  • Continuous recruitment of children with CHD and their families to our DNA Bank, the resource fuelling all our research

Understanding the genetic causes of CHD will help us to improve current management and treatment of children with CHD but it will also enable us to provide more individualised information to families regarding possible causes. Trying to answer the so often asked questions 'why did this happen' and 'will this happen again' is the driving force behind our research programme.


Clinical Research Programme

At the Heart Centre for Children we are undertaking a broad range of clinical research work to better understand, document and improve management of cardiac abnormalities in children. Major areas of investigation include:

  • The first review of all patients who underwent cardiac surgery under the age of one year. Our findings will identify key care need characteristics, and help us understand how prenatal diagnosis of heart disease in infants may influence their care.
  • Examining the destiny of patients who begin care with a variety of forms of complex single ventricle abnormality.
  • Exploring the outcomes for all fetuses seen by our Fetal Cardiology Team. Working with our partners in neonatal and postoperative intensive care, these complementary lines of investigation will help us develop long term follow-up for neurodevelopmental outcomes in children after heart surgery.


Psychological Research Programme

Our Psychological Research Programme is dedicated to helping children with heart disease and their families to live their happiest and most fulfilling lives.

Established in 2008 by Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian, we strive for excellence and innovation in the care of infants and children with heart disease and their families, and to support the medical, nursing and allied health teams providing care. For more information about our current research studies, click here.

Our team works in partnership with researchers from psychology, paediatric cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, clinical genetics, nursing, social work, the behavioural sciences, public health, developmental psychobiology, psychiatry, and child life therapy. These partnerships result in innovative studies that push the boundaries of research and clinical practice.

We collaborate with many organisations to stay at the forefront of medical psychology research, including Harvard Medical School, the Imperial College London, University of Genoa Italy, and the Karolinska Institute. The quality of our research has been recognised through numerous national and international awards, government grants, peer-reviewed publications and invitations to present at international conferences. Our projects and our staff are supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, HeartKids Australia, beyondblue: the national depression initiative, and the Adolph Basser Research Trust. For more information about our research publications, click here.

Each year, we train, mentor and support numerous postgraduate and undergraduate students. For more information on the suite of research studies our team is currently working on, or to discuss new research opportunities, please contact us via the contact page.


Laboratory research

Innovative research and state-of-the-art techniques are enhancing our understanding of the heart. The ultimate goal is better treatment and care for kids with heart disease.

Studying heart function after surgery

Many kids born with heart problems need cardiac surgery to repair their heart. In the care of our skilled surgeons and operative team, the operation and post-operative period are generally straightforward, and the kids recover rapidly to lead normal lives. All patients suffer a temporary drop in their heart function after a heart operation. In kids with congenital heart disease the risk can be higher because their hearts are not as strong before the surgery. The timing of this drop is predictable, and can be helped with medicines and sometimes machines. Still, the cause is not well understood and our research is providing important advances in this area.

Improving surgical treatment

When our surgeons fix kids' hearts, they have to make the heart still. This is done by filling the blood vessels in the heart with a cardioplegia solution. We know that making the heart still in this way causes a minor but necessary injury from 'ischaemia/reperfusion'. In the laboratory, we are testing two of the most promising advances available to reduce injury to kids' hearts during surgery. This science perfects the art of managing kids post-operatively. We are working with partners in Australia, at the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research, and overseas, to understand how the heart works in exquisite detail, down to individual molecules within heart muscle cells. When we understand the normal workings of the heart and its amazing ability to repair itself, we can develop ways to help this happen better or faster in the clinic, to improve surgical care of kids with heart disease.


Cardiovascular Risk and Long Term Outcomes

This research programme focuses on better understanding cardiovascular risk in children. In particular, we are examining children with congenital heart disease, and the inter-relationship with any pre-existing cardiac abnormalities (including surgical repairs of heart disease). Our work in this area aims to improve overall long term follow-up and outcomes. It is integrated with our our Senior Congenital Heart Disease program and adult cardiology colleagues at major Adult Congenital Heart Centres.


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