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About the Metabolic and Vascular Physiology Laboratory

The Metabolic and Vascular Physiology Laboratory addresses important clinical questions across the obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease continuum. This work is directed to novel preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies through multidisciplinary approaches combining basic bench-top research with human physiology and investigator-led randomised controlled clinical trials. Our work impacts on patient care and has been published in highly regarded journals.

The laboratory is well known for work on vascular biomechanical properties, as well as guideline influencing studies in exercise research elucidating the mechanisms underpinning the cardiometabolic protective effects of physical activity. Current research directions include identification of novel molecular mechanisms applicable to clinical practice, with a particular focus on:

  • the glycemic effects of sugary drink consumption
  • activation of brown adipose tissue to combat obesity
  • HDL therapies for diabetes and ischemic heart disease
  • novel predictors and therapies for acute coronary syndromes
  • amelioration of the cardiometabolic consequences of haematological cancers.


Obesity and diabetes mellitus

Brown adipose tissue (BAT): We recently demonstrated for the first time that a single, high oral dose of ephedrine can activate BAT in the majority of young lean males (Diabetologia 2013, upfront feature article). We further established that this activation — as is also the case for cold exposure — is defective in obese adults. In demonstrating pharmacological BAT activation and the disparity between lean and obese adults, this paper represents an important conceptual advance in the search for therapeutics to manipulate BAT. Current work is directed to determining whether it is possible to activate BAT in obese humans and the therapeutic potential of this approach to underpin novel anti-obesity strategies.

HDL therapies: Our group has elucidated a suite of novel actions of HDL with clinical relevance to the HDL raising therapies currently in late phase RCTs for coronary heart disease. The most novel of these relates to the actions of HDL on glucose metabolism and the potential for HDL-raising strategies to prevent and control type 2 diabetes. Current studies are focused on further understanding of the effects of HDL on glycaemic control and include both proof-of-concept clinical trials as well as cell culture approaches. Metabolic and related anti-ischemic actions of HDL in cardiac muscle are also a current interest.

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Worldwide, more than 19 million people experience a sudden cardiac event annually; however, accurate identification of patients at risk for unstable coronary syndromes is still not possible. The Metabolic and Vascular Physiology Laboratory has contributed to the understanding of the biomechanical and genetic contributors to plaque instability. Recent work with our Baker Institute collaborator Associate Professor Peter Meikle using electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry has identified novel lipids contributing to a profile of lipid biomarkers which classify stable and unstable CAD patients more accurately than do traditional risk factors (patent: PCT/AU2010/001596; Arterioscl Thromb Vasc Biol 2011). Current studies aim to refine this model and to elucidate the mechanisms linking plaque stability to the plasma lipidome.

Lipidomic predictors of coronary artery disease

Activation of human brown adipose tissue to control obesity

Sugar-sweetened beverages and physical activity

The Physical Activity Spectrum: Health Outcomes, Clinical Implications and Discovery Science


Dr Andrew Carey (Senior Research Officer)
Dr Erin Howden (Postdoctoral fellow)
Dr Erin Hoare (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Dr Adele Richart (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Dr Julian Sacre (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Dr Andrew Siebel (Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow)
Melissa Formosa (Research Assistant)
Mina Khalaji (Research Assistant)
Medini Reddy-luthmoodoo (Research Assistant)
Rebecca Loh (PhD Student)
Pia Varsamis (PhD Student)

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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