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22nd April 2021 Atrial Fibrillation

New research could help us land a knock-out blow in the fight for heart health

A man standing in a boxing ring wearing a white lab coat and green boxing gloves

Heart rhythm disorders are no match for Associate Professor Christopher Wong

As a researcher at the University of Adelaide and cardiologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Cardiovascular Centre, A/Prof Chris Wong is setting his sights on eliminating deadly heart rhythm disorders like atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder which can cause us to have palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain and dizzy spells, as well as putting us at higher risk of stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, dementia and premature death.

Frighteningly, one in four of us will experience AF during our lifetimes, and it is now a more common cause of hospital admission in Australia than heart attacks.

A/Prof Wong is facing this enemy head-on. Equipped with a grant from The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) Group, he’s using a new drug to treat AF’s three common risk factors: high blood pressure, excess weight and diabetes.

“All existing medications used specifically for AF only manage symptoms or complications, whereas this drug aims to treat the cause and enables us to focus on prevention in the first place,” says A/Prof Wong.

While many of his patients have been able to reduce these risk factors and the impact of AF by making lifestyle changes, most people cannot manage this adequately with lifestyle changes alone.

“We understand that losing weight, reducing blood pressure and treating diabetes is difficult. If we can better manage these risk factors simultaneously with one drug, then we may be able to reduce the symptoms and complications for AF as well,” A/Prof Wong says.


A doctor stands with his arms crossed in an operating theatre

A/Prof Christopher Wong is fighting to beat heart disease!

The drug, called an SGLT2 inhibitor, has already proven successful in treating diabetes and is now undergoing trials in a range of other conditions, including AF. It works on a transporter in the kidneys that increases the excretion of sugar in urine.

A/Prof Wong says, “Although it was originally developed as a diabetes drug, it incidentally showed other beneficial effects, including lowering blood pressure, causing weight loss, and reducing inflammatory stress.”

This ground-breaking new research could have a huge impact for the thousands of us fighting AF. By helping us manage our risk factors, A/Prof Wong and his team are hitting back against heart rhythm disorders, improving the health and wellbeing of our community.


Research and clinical work aren’t the only ways A/Prof Wong is fighting for our heart health. He’s also passionate about raising awareness for how medical research has tangible, everyday benefits for all of us.

That’s why A/Prof Wong was thrilled to be able to continue spreading that message by volunteering for our new Together. Fight. campaign.

Together. Fight. is a message for all South Australians, reminding us that we are not alone in the fight against diseases and illnesses such as heart rhythm disorders. Together with researchers, clinicians, patients and community support, we’re fighting for you by providing grants for life-changing medical research and improved healthcare.

A/Prof Wong says, “Medical research benefits us all. Family, friends or we ourselves will all unfortunately be affected by disease at some point in life. Volunteering for the Together. Fight. campaign was the least I could do for an organisation that has supported researchers like myself and others.”