Heart failure researchers receive major new grant

The Maastricht heart failure research team, led by Professor Stephane Heymans, was awarded a million-euro grant from the Nederlandse Hartstichting (Dutch Heart Foundation). Together with researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, they will spend the next five years researching the early indicators of a specific form of heart failure that is common among women. 'The collaboration between the Cardiology Department at Maastricht UMC+ and the CARIM research institute is once again paying off,' says Professor Heymans. 'We're a formidable team.'

When the heart starts to lose its elasticity, the muscle has trouble relaxing, resulting in higher blood pressure in the heart and lungs. This can lead to shortness of breath and heart failure. This particular type of heart failure, known as HFPEF, is more common in women aged 65 and older and people with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and/or kidney failure. In many patients, this loss of elasticity has progressed for several years before symptoms occur. At the moment, the disease is untreatable and irreversible. Early detection is therefore important to prevent unnecessary suffering.

Early warning signs
This is exactly what UM researchers Anna Papageorgiou and Mathijs Blankesteijn plan to research under the supervision of Professor Heymans and Dr Vanessa van Empel. They hope to uncover the early warning signs, such as biomarkers, that could indicate a decline in heart health. Preclinical diastolic dysfunction (pDD) is a condition that causes HFPEF in thirty percent of patients. Identifying pDD is an important objective of the study. The multidisciplinary project group will study the predictive biomarkers and other patient characteristics that could help detect pDD at an early stage and contribute to the development of tailored treatment.

Succesful team
Professor Stephane Heymans will lead part of the Maastricht team of doctors and researchers that is hoping to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic tools for heart failure, specifically for thinned and thickened heart muscles.

Over the past seven years, the heart failure team was awarded six Vidi and Vici grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, four Dekker grants and three CVON grants from the Dutch Heart Foundation. The team was also awarded a CVON grant for this project. Cardiovasculair Onderzoek Nederland finances large-scale, national research projects on which researchers, universities and companies collaborate. By working with several disciplines and investing in major, national research projects, the Netherlands is committed to improving the quality of cardiovascular research. This increase in scale is also resulting in less fragmentation and less competition.
The project's official title is: CVON-EARLY-HFPEF.

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