Identification of a preventative treatment for the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in the young

Dr Helena Viola

A novel approach for the prevention of cardiomyopathy

Dr Helena Viola from the UWA School of Human Sciences was awarded a 2017 Raine Priming Grant.

Raine Priming Grant

School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia

2017 - 2018


Dr Helena Viola is a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow in the School of Human Sciences at The University of Western Australia.

She completed her PhD with Distinction in 2010, being awarded the UWA Robert Street Prize for most outstanding PhD thesis across all disciplines. Dr Viola commenced her Raine Priming Grant in 2017 to identify a novel, early-intervention therapy for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle), which is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in the young. There is currently no treatment available to prevent this disease.

Over the course of her research career, Dr Viola has identified that a calcium channel in the membrane of heart cells regulates heart metabolism, and that the activity of this calcium channel is impaired in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This research has discovered a new early-intervention approach to prevent hypertrophic cardiomyopathy by normalising heart metabolism using a drug that targets this calcium channel. Once translated this will significantly decrease associated morbidity and mortality. The findings from this study have led to 10 publications in highly rated journals, including Nature Communications and Science Advances, as well as a patent pending for the identified drug treatment.

Since commencing the Raine Priming Grant, Dr Viola has been successful in obtaining additional national grant funding (Heart Foundation & NHMRC). This has assisted her to further investigate the potential treatment effects of the identified drug on decreasing extracellular matrix stiffness (associated with the cardiomyopathic heart) and preventing sudden cardiac death.

“I am extremely grateful to have received funding from the Raine Medical Research Foundation and  the possibilities that have resulted. It has enabled me to produce critical preliminary data for two major funding applications, including a NHMRC New Investigator Grant, and a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship. I was delighted to be awarded both.”