AMICARE: cross-border research on the relationship between heart failure and kidney disease

Yesterday saw the opening in Aachen of AMICARE, an institute at which researchers from Maastricht UMC+, Maastricht University and RWTH Aachen University will work together to unravel the relationship between cardiovascular problems and kidney disease. It will be one of the first European institutes at which researchers from different countries and disciplines will collaborate so intensively on this urgent medical problem.

The combination of heart and kidney failure, known as cardiorenal syndrome, is a common problem: more than 40 per cent of patients with heart failure also suffer from kidney failure. Yet little is known about the syndrome. It is clear that people with chronic kidney disease have an increased risk of heart failure, and that conversely people with reduced pumping function (heart failure) are also more likely than average to have problems with their kidneys. However, it often isn’t clear what is cause and effect.


Researchers and professors Erik Biessen, Leon Schurgers, and Tilman Hackeng of the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM) at Maastricht University (UM) conduct research on cardiovascular diseases, and have been working closely with RWTH Aachen for more than 15 years. Based on the successful collaboration within two major European research projects coordinated by each of these institutes, they forged plans for further collaboration with Aachen group leaders and professors Joachim Jankowski, Jürgen Floege, Nikolaus Marx and Dr Heidi Noels. This led to the establishment of the bilateral and binational research institute the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Cardiorenal Disease (AMICARE) with a laboratory on campus in Aachen.

Best of both worlds

Leon Schurgers, UM-professor of the biochemistry of vascular calcification, is delighted: "With AMICARE we combine the best of both worlds. In Maastricht, for example, we know a lot about the molecular side of cardiovascular disease. RWTH Aachen has a lot of expertise in kidney research and has a number of unique cohorts and biobanks with data on people with chronic kidney disease. The technology available at the two universities is also complementary. If you combine the expertise and technology of the two centres, you can do more, better targeted research."

Cross-border collaboration

The partnership crosses boundaries in two ways, explains Erik Biessen, UM-professor of experimental vascular pathology: ‘Of course we’re cutting across national borders. Fortunately, this is increasingly common in science. But at AMICARE, we also have researchers working together from different fields, the cardiovascular system and the kidneys. These are fields of research that still often operate separately. This collaboration allows us to consider our patients more holistically and study their complex clinical picture as a whole.’

Translational research

The research institute focuses on translational research, which is aimed at translating fundamental research results into applications for the patient. On the one hand, this means that the researchers will continue to study the mechanisms and causes of the concurrence of cardiovascular and renal problems. On the other hand, they also expect that AMICARE will be able to accelerate research on the early recognition and treatment of the syndrome, for example using medication.

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