Goal 3: Advance Translational Research

New Targets for the Treatment of Heart Failure

Heart failure (HF) is one of the major health challenges in the 21st Century. Its prevalence is due a growing number of patients who survive heart attacks, who later develop heart failure; and the high incidence of diabetes leading to diabetic cardiomyopathy. Current treatments for HF only slow the progression of the disease; no treatment stops or reverses this adverse sequence. These limitations provoke the question Is HF purely a disease of cardiac myocytes, which seems to be the focus of current treatments; or is it a pathology involving both the coronary circulation and cardiac muscle? Answers to this question may facilitate a more complete understanding of the disease and a better treatment outcome.

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? Compelling Question (CQ)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC

The current treatment regimens for patients with heart failure (HF) focus on strategies to reduce cardiac work (by reducing heart rate, beta-blockers), afterload reduction (ACE inhibitors), and decrease in preload/blood volume (ACE inhibitors, aldosterone antagonists, diuretics). None of these treatments stop or reverse the progression of the disease. A recent gene therapy trial designed to improve cardiac contractility and calcium handling in HF has failed in clinical trials. Perhaps the reason that the current and experimental treatments have not produced an outcome of stopping or reversing the progression of the disease relates to the "cell" they are targeting. In this regard, the current treatments principally target cardiac myocytes, but there is evidence that vascular perfusion abnormalities may also be involved in the disease. One such piece of evidence relates to the diffuse fibrosis occurring in the failing hearts. Such fibrosis is often referred to as replacement fibrosis in that the fibrotic tissue has replaced cardiac myocytes which died. This death could be the result of a perfusion abnormalities caused by inadequate dilation of the coronary resistance vessels. Thus, is heart failure a pathology involving both the coronary circulation and cardiac muscle? In this regard, future investigations of heart failure consider cardiac-coronary interactions leading to perfusion abnormalities as a key factor in the progression of heart failure.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC

The challenge of addressing a coronary vascular contribution to heart failure would involve an interdisciplinary approach using genetic models with cardiac and/or vascular (smooth muscle and endothelium) expression or knock-out of key genes involved in cardiac function and vascular control. Sophisticated measurements of cardiac function and metabolic status of the heart using echocardiography, MRI, PET and a L-Band EPR would provide insight into flow-function-metabolism-oxygenation relations in the normal and failing heart.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea William M Chilian

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Idea No. 767