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New research institute to study heart diseases

03-Dec-2008 (Wed) The Straits Times

By Lee Hui Chieh

A NEW institute will be set up within a year to ramp up research into heart diseases and improve their treatment in Singapore, public health group National University Health System (NUHS) said yesterday.

The Cardiovascular Research Institute will focus on studying four major heart conditions here, including heart attacks and heart failure.

The NUHS' chief executive officer, Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, said he hoped the research would raise Singapore's standing in the international scientific community and improve the care for patients here.

The institute will work closely with the new National University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS), the second national specialist centre for heart diseases. The first is the National Heart Centre.

The new institute's programmes have yet to be finalised, but researchers will probably focus on finding proteins or genes whose presence indicates higher risk of a heart attack or heart failure, said NUHCS director Tan Huay Cheem.

The institute will probably also look into new drugs and ways of using stem cells to treat patients who have had a heart attack or whose hearts are failing.

The new heart centre pools staff from the NUH's cardiac department and cardiac, thoracic and vascular surgery department. It is now running programmes in the four major types of heart conditions that integrate treatment from different health-care professionals, so patients can receive more holistic care and their progress can be tracked, Associate Professor Tan said.

The institute will be housed within the Centre for Translational Medicine, a new building with dedicated research facilities expected to be ready by 2010.