ACU (Australian Catholic University)

Insight

Issue 4, Autumn 2012

Home is where the heart is

An interest in cardiovascular research took Edward Crendal to the University of Avignon. Sara Coen spoke to the French-born PhD student about how his research is bringing his two homes a little closer  together

ACU research student Edward Crendal jumped at the chance to study for 10 months in the country of his birth – but it wasn’t all about the wine and cheese. Fluent in French, and tackling a cutting edge area of research into cardiovascular health, the 26-year-old was the ideal candidate to undertake a unique cotutelle between ACU and University of Avignon (UAPV) in France – a program which leads to a jointly-awarded PhD degree from the two institutions.

“I was born in Paris and my family moved to Australia when I was two, but we always spoke French at home,” Edward said.

“I’m still very strongly connected to my French background and culture – and when I relocated to Melbourne to complete a PhD at ACU, I discovered the University also had an affi liation with France.”

“My research supervisor Professor Geraldine Naughton [Director of ACU’s Centre of Physical Activity Across the Lifespan] had established a rapport with Professor Philippe Obert - a leading expert in cardiac physiology and echocardiography at UAPV.”

“When I was looking for a PhD topic, Professor Naughton arranged for us to meet. With a mutual interest in cardiovascular research and a passion for all things French we hit it off and I was invited to participate in the cotutelle under the joint supervision of Professor Naughton and Professor Obert.”

After completing a Bachelor of Exercise Science with honours at ACU’s North Sydney Campus, Edward became particularly interested in cardiovascular research.

Alarmed by the fact that 38 per cent of all deaths in Australia and 49 per cent of all deaths in Europe were directly linked to cardiovascular disease, he developed an interest in prevention and early detection. His PhD on the independent influences of metabolic syndrome and ageing on the heart investigates the impact of two separate factors, metabolic syndrome and ageing, on the structure and function of the heart.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risks including obesity, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. The research is unique, using speckle tracking echocardiography – a highly sensitive imaging approach – which allows for the detection of subtle changes in the heart.

Findings indicate this technique can be used for early detection of cardiac abnormalities and it may be a more effective diagnostic tool than traditional methods.

Edward said many of the risk factors involved in cardiovascular disease are modifiable and early detection can lay the foundation for timely intervention.

Edward said Professor Obert’s involvement in national trials in France had also provided a solid framework in relation to how exercise can improve the health of people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The cotutelle was a fantastic opportunity to return to my roots and apply an international dimension to my research – and I even got to enjoy my fair share of wine and cheese.”

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