British researchers are embarking on a new study in collaboration with colleagues from across Europe to identify early signs of physiological change in the body that indicate nascent cardiovascular diseases.
“The problem with cardiovascular disease is that it often develops unnoticed over years before becoming a serious problem,” Doctor Christian Delles of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, key collaborator on the project which is worth 557,000 pounds the University of Glasgow, said.
Despite being the biggest killer in the Western world the individual causes of the various types of CVD: coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke, are still largely unknown.
“We all know that smoking, over-consumption of alcohol and a high-fat diet can increase the risk of developing CVD but we currently know very little about the earliest stages of the disease, which at are at least in part, reversible,” Delles said.
“At present drug-based interventions are based on risk-factor control – for example through reducing existing high blood pressure or using statins to reduce blood cholesterol levels.”
“However, if we can identify early signs or biomarkers of the disease before symptoms arise, we have the opportunity to develop interventions to stop disease before it becomes a problem.”
“In order to understand what transformations do take place in the body in the early stages of CVD, the scientists will closely study the proteins expressed by different genes and look for disease-specific changes – a field of study known as proteomics.”
Identifying a range of biomarkers involved in CVD could ultimately lead to treatment tailored to an individual’s own body – heralding a new era of personalised medicine.
In future, cardiovascular disease may be treated before it is even noticed by the patient and has had the chance to cause irreparable damage.
The four-year study, entitled “Systems Biology to Identify Molecular Targets for Vascular Disease Treatment” (SysVasc), is being coordinated by Professor Burkert Pieske at the Medical University of Graz in Austria.