Healthy Hearts: ICON grant secured

14 July 2019

NICM Health Research Institute (NICM) will investigate the use of two nutraceuticals, curcumin and resveratrol, to address cardiovascular disease after securing a grant from Improving Cardiovascular Outcome Network (ICON) Early Career Researchers Program, an initiative with South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD).

Successful grants within the ICON program are provided to applicants that can demonstrate their cardiovascular research has scientific merit, integrates with existing research programs, and can benefit and align with the SWSLHD Research Strategy 2012-2021.

The research led by NICM Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Xian (Phoebe) Zhou, along with her mentor Associate Professor Chun Guang Li, will study the combined effects of curcumin and resveratrol for the protection of the endothelium (inner surface of blood vessels) against oxidant stress (an imbalance between oxygen-containing molecules and antioxidants in your body which can lead to cell and tissue damage).

With oxidant stress an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, brought on by several elements including diet and lifestyle, and environmental factors such has pollution and radiation, it is considered as a target to focus on for cardiovascular research.

The use of curcumin and resveratrol is based on the nutraceuticals being well known for their powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities.

As individual compounds, they have been shown to produce a protective role in cardiovascular diseases, however they have been seen to show positive interactions when combined.

Dr Zhou’s research will determine both individual and combined effects of curcumin and resveratrol on endothelial function using in vitroand in vivomodels, as well as determine the optimal ratio to be used when combining both compounds to tackle endothelium dysfunction hence preventing the development of cardiovascular disease.

“It is expected the study will advance the current knowledge and expand our understanding on the design of combination drug therapy for cardiovascular disease management, and provide us with early evidence in developing potential health products,” said Dr Zhou.

The $45,000 research project is to run over the next three years, commencing from in September and will be undertaken in three stages:

  • Stage 1 - determining the synergistic interaction of the two compounds in the protection of endothelial cells.
  • Stage 2 - analysing the molecular targets of the combined compounds.
  • Stage 3 - consisting of a secondary screen confirming the observed activity of the nutraceuticals.

To assist with these stages and the overall project, NICM is currently recruiting a highly skilled Higher Degree Research candidate with a medical science or cell biology background.

For more information on the role, or to apply contact Dr Zhou at