Vascular Research Centre

Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease results from build-up of cholesterol-rich plaques in the walls of the coronary arteries and is a leading cause of death. Inflammation is central to atherosclerosis.

A key driver of inflammation in plaque is accumulation of cholesterol-laden macrophages, called foam cells. Uncontrolled inflammation makes coronary plaques "unstable" and vulnerable to rupture, leading to thrombosis and myocardial infarction. As multiple inflamed plaques often co-exist in the coronary system, patients are at risk of repeated atherothrombotic cardiovascular events after myocardial infarction, with rates of 10-12% at one year, and 18-20% at three years. This is largely because current therapies for atherosclerosis, such as lipid-lowering statins, do not adequately control plaque inflammation. New anti-atherosclerotic agents are therefore needed, especially those that better target inflammation.  

The Psaltis group, based in the Vascular Research Centre, Lifelong Health Theme of SAHMRI, focuses on vascular inflammation, as we believe that this presents the greatest opportunity to impact on atherosclerosis and its sufferers. We study the developmental origins of macrophages and foam cells in healthy and diseased mammalian arteries (NHMRC GNT1086796, NHF FLF100412, RACP CDF, NHF VG102981), as well as their molecular regulation (NHMRC GNT1142794) and pharmacological targeting (NHMRC GNT1127159, NHMRC L2 CDF1161506, NHF VG101370; NHF FLF102056, VIERCI2017016) in atherosclerosis, across projects that span the full bench-to-bedside spectrum. In addition, we have discovered a population of self-renewing, clonogenic haemangioblasts that reside in the adventitia (outer layer) of blood vessels and numerous other postnatal tissues. Ongoing projects are exploring how these cells are involved in different pathophysiological processes such as atherosclerosis, wound healing, tissue ischaemia and cancer.

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  • Lead researchers

    Associate Professor Peter Psaltis

    Associate Professor Peter Psaltis & Dr Christina Bursill (Lead co-director)

    Associate Professor Peter James Psaltis

    Peter Psaltis is an Academic Cardiologist and Vascular Biologist. He holds NHMRC Career Development and National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowships administered through the Adelaide Medical School, and is Deputy Leader of the Heart and Vascular Program and Co-director of the Vascular Research Centre within the Lifelong Health Theme at SAHMRI, as well as being a consultant Interventional Cardiologist in the Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

    Dr Christina Bursill, Co-director, Vascular Research Centre, SAHMRI

  • Research team

    Research team Role
    Dr Nisha Schwarz (Post-doctoral Fellow) Researcher
    Dr Mohammadhossein Hassanshahi (Post-doctoral Fellow) Researcher
    Ms Thalia Skoumbourdis (Research Assistant) Research support
    Ms Catherine Dimasi (Research Assistant) Research support
    Ms Lauren Sandeman (Research Assistant) Research support
    Ms Sanuja Fernando (PhD candidate) Student
    Ms Anna Williamson (PhD candidate) Student
    Ms Sanuri Liyanage (Honours student) Student
    Mr Jake White (PhD Student) Student
    Dr Aaron Long (Hons Student) Student
    Ms Esma Kararmaz (Hons Student) Student
  • Partnerships

    • Dr Christina Bursill, Co-director, Vascular Research Centre, SAHMRI
    • Prof Derek Chew, Flinders University and Lifelong Health Theme, SAHMRI
    • Prof Stephen Nicholls, Monash University, Victoria
    • Prof Andrew Zannettino, UniAdel and Precision Medicine Theme, SAHMRI
    • Prof Claudine Bonder, Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia
    • Prof Christopher Proud, UniAdel and Lifelong Health Theme, SAHMRI
    • Prof Alex Brown, UniAdel and Aboriginal Health Equity, SAHMRI
    • Prof Tim Hughes, UniAdel and Precision Medicine Theme, SAHMRI
    • Dr Tim Sargeant, Lifelong Health Theme, SAHMRI
    • Prof Joseph Selvanayagam, Flinders University and Lifelong Health Theme, SAHMRI
    • Dr Peter Zalewski, UniAdel and Basil Hetzel Institute
    • Dr Hannah Keage, Department of Psychology, University of South Australia
    • Dr Mergen Ghayesh, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Adelaide
    • Prof Karlheinz Peter, Baker Institute, Victoria
    • Prof Grant Drummond, Latrobe University, Victoria
    • Prof Gemma Figtree, University of Sydney and Kolling Institute, NSW
    • Dr Vashe Chandrakanthan, University of New South Wales, NSW
    • Dr Ashish Misra, Heart Research Institute, NSW
    • Prof Rajiv Gulati, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, USA
  • Related areas of research

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