Luxembourg at the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure in Florence

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Members of the Cardiovascular Research Unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) represented Luxembourg on the 3rd World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, organized by the European Society of Cardiology in Florence last May. Cardiovascular disease, which include heart failure and myocardial infarction (heart attack), remain the number one cause of death worldwide. Hence, it is necessary to identify new tools to detect the development and predict the outcome of these conditions for a better treatment strategy. Three works that contribute to fill such gaps were presented at the Congress. Two confirmed the potential use of RNA molecules as new biomarkers for heart failure after myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest, while the other revealed the zebrafish as an ideal experimental model to study heart failure.

Heart failure is a serious condition characterized when the heart can’t keep up with its workload and is an underlying cause of cardiac arrest. In one of the studies, the researchers verified that two small RNAs (microRNAs 124 and 122) found in the blood of patients after cardiac arrest can be used to predict mortality and poor neurological outcome. These easy to access RNAs can help doctors identify the outcome of such patients to better tailor treatment. The second work focused on predicting left ventricular dysfunction, a life threatening condition that can develop after acute myocardial infarction. However, existing tools to detect it have serious limitations, making the discovery of novel biomarkers essential to improve the identification of patients at risk. The researchers unveiled a new circular RNA called MICRA (Myocardial Infarction-associated Circular RNA) as a predictor of left ventricular dysfunction after myocardial infarction. Patients with low levels of MICRA in their blood were at high risk to develop the life threatening dysfunction. Both investigations confirm the promise to use RNAs in the blood to aid manage cardiovascular disease.

On the topic of animal models and experimentation, the group presented the zebrafish model as an ideal model to investigate heart failure development and recovery. Zebrafish have the incredible ability to regenerate cardiac tissue after damage, something that the human heart can’t achieve. The work consisted in chemically inducing heart failure and studying cardiac structure and function after drug withdrawal. The researchers show that zebrafish are able to reverse cardiac failure within a few weeks. Better understanding of the mechanisms behind heart failure regression will help to discover potential new drug targets and treatments to improve patient outcome.

The three studies presented at the Congress potentially make significant contributions to advancing the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. One has been recently published in JAMA Cardiology and the others will soon be published in scientific journals.