Novel and pioneering research offers hope for cardiovascular disease

or Khachigian is critical to our future as a country offering world class research and science capabilities," said Mr Lirette.

Levon Khachigian and his team of researchers at the University of NSW have developed enzymes made of DNA, or DNAzymes, which find and silence the EGR-1 gene. He has used DNAzymes as unique tools to increase our fundamental understanding of the complex mechanisms of driving gene expression in vascular cells.

"DNAzymes are essentially 'molecular assassins' that seek out specific genetic material, bind it tightly and destroy it quickly, ultimately stopping the targeted gene from working", he said. "We have now expanded our armoury of gene-modifying agents using other cutting-edge nucleic acid-based technologies targeting key "master regulators' ".

His pioneering work with arteries made Professor Khachigian eager to explore other common debilitating diseases. "We have recently demonstrated the capacity of our molecular assassins to block arthritis, blindness, lung sepsis and gut inflammation in experimental animal models, as well as inhibit tumour growth by blocking angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels," said Professor Khachigian.

The next challenge for Levon Khachigian and his team is demonstrating how his tools, which work in a wealth of animal models, can be exploited therapeutically in humans. Clinical trials are planned for early 2007 and commercial partners are being sought through NewSouth Innovations (UNSW).

Professor Khachigian, who is also President of the Australian Society for Medical Research, told the audience: "Health and medical research in Australia is a 'golden egg'. Disease prevention reduces the number and length of hospital admissions and increases workforce productivity and wealth creation. In fact, research shows that for every dollar invested in research, there's between a $5-8 return to this country per year. If we don't spend the money now, we'll have to spend much, mu

Contact: Bernadette Basell
Research Australia

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