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Landmark EU-Russia study to shed new light on heart disease - Aug 16, 2013

Landmark EU-Russia study to shed new light on heart disease - Aug 16, 2013

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Heart disease is one of the world's biggest health-care, social and economic challenges. It is often associated with other conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. Researchers are now trying to determine how these conditions interact in an effort to better identify people at high risk and to improve treatment. 

Landmark research on these interactions, including extensive clinical trials, is being conducted by the EU-funded project SICA-HF ('Studies Investigating Co-morbidities Aggravating Heart Failure'). The project is also being supported by the Russian Federation and involves 12 Russian and European organisations. 

The researchers aim to provide important insights into the complex interaction between heart failure, diabetes, obesity and muscle wasting. The work will contribute to improved disease management and outcomes for patients. 

They will also examine some of the many still unknown factors on the causes and treatment of chronic heart failure (CHF). For example, there are currently no precise statistics to back up some research estimates that 15 to 25 percent of diabetic patients over the age of 55 are unaware they may have some form of heart problem. 

There are also no clear warning signs that someone is at risk - a major threat to their health given that if a patient has CHF their chance of dying jumps from 5 percent a year to 35 percent a year once blood sugar levels exceed a certain limit. 

CHF, which occurs when the heart is unable to pump hard enough to maintain blood flow to meet the needs of the body, is not a curable condition, although its progression can be slowed and symptoms improved through effective management, especially if diagnosed early. 

Early diagnosis also greatly reduces the high costs of treatment. Treating people with CHF is estimated to account for around two percent of total health-care spending in some EU countries. 

The SICA-HF team is conducting 13 clinical and preclinical trials in Europe and Russia to study the associations of CHF and the three conditions at the clinical, vascular, cellular and molecular levels. The trials involve more than 1600 patients with CHF, and over 300 patients with type 2 diabetes without CHF and more than 150 healthy subjects will serve as control groups.. 

The team is using standardised protocols that focus on body composition, insulin resistance, exercise capacity, cardiopulmonary reflex patterns and peripheral blood flow, with subjects assessed at baseline, after four to six months, after 16 to 18 months. From then on assessments would be done each year. 

Significantly, blood and tissue samples from patients being clinically evaluated will be sent to partner research laboratories, allowing them to study the same patients. Such interaction is very rare in large-scale studies and allows researchers to better integrate the information as it is collected. 

The information will provide doctors with a more complete background on CHF - gathered from the lives of trial participants, and its interplay with three important and commonly associated conditions: type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and cachexia, a form of muscle wasting. 

The researchers expect their research on CHF will lead to faster diagnosis and better treatment for those at risk of heart disease. They will also have key data on incidence and prevalence of the three associated conditions among CHF patients. This would help confirm established indicators of CHF and allow researchers to investigate new ones. 

Partner institutions from five EU countries and Russia teamed up for SICA-HF. It is supported by funding of more than EUR 6.3 million, of which around EUR 3 million came from the EU. The project is coordinated by Charité-Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, Germany.


Aug 16, 2013