Introduction to the burden of cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and responsible for 17.9 million deaths every year. Within the Netherlands there is a daily mortality of 103 people, making cardiovascular diseases the second most prevalent cause of death in 2018[i]. In Flanders the situation is similar and cardiovascular disease is also the second cause of death, with 28% in 2016[ii].
How the lives of people with chronic cardiovascular diseases are affected depends on the specific disease and its severity. For example, patients with heart failure can experience a decrease in endurance. Physical activities such as cycling to work, walking up the stairs or even getting dressed can lead to tiredness, shortness of breath and swollen legs and/or ankles. This can restrict the quality of life and activities of the person immensely and requires major life adjustments.
Our cardiovascular moonshot
The cardiovascular moonshot of RegMed XB is a comprehensive program based on the concept that we should be able to create a cardiac (re-)generative therapy that suits best the individual patient. One approach is to restore the heart function outside of the body (ex vivo). The advantage of this method is that we can solely treat the heart and assess cardiac function during treatment. During the time the heart is outside the body, the body will be connected to a heart-lung machine. After restoring the heart, it will be re-implanted. With this approach, gene therapy to cure hereditary diseases will also become possible. The researchers aim to stimulate the body’s own regenerative capacity including, for example, improving the contractility and perfusion of the heart muscle, repair or replacement of coronary arteries and heart valves.
The cardiovascular moonshot is divided in different steps, also called milestones. They are called milestone since they are major progress points on of which achievements areneeded for the moonshot. The first milestone focuses on keeping a beating heart healthy and functioning for up to 7 days in a bioreactor outside of the body. During this time, the heart can be repaired. The main goal is to restore the damaged heart using regenerative medicine solutions. This can vary from restoring for instance the muscular function to dealing with atherosclerotic damage.
RegMed XB partners are working together to create new solutions for multiple cardiovascular diseases. The ultimate goal and the in-between steps can create therapies for many patients with different cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary artery disease and untreatable arrhythmias.
[i] De Boer AR, van Dis I, Visseren FLJ, Vaartjes I, Bots ML. Hart- en vaatziekten in Nederland 2019, cijfers over incidentie, prevalentie, ziekte en sterfte. Den Haag: Hartstichting, 2019
[ii] Statbel.fgov.be(2019). https://statbel.fgov.be/nl/themas/bevolking/sterfte-en-levensverwachting/doodsoorzaken. Available at: https://statbel.fgov.be/nl/themas/bevolking/ sterfte-en-levensverwachting/doodsoorzaken [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].