Cardiovascular diseases

Despite the steady decline in the mortality rate for cardiovascular diseases, they still represent the leading cause of death in most European countries, including the Czech Republic, where they account for half of all deaths. At the same time, however, the Czech Republic lags far behind Western Europe. Compared with France, for instance, the country’s mortality rate for cardiovascular diseases is nearly three times higher.

Leading cause of hospitalization

The main underlying factor in cardiovascular diseases is atherosclerosis, which affects the arteries that supply the heart with blood. It leads to ischemic heart disease, which typically manifests as an infarction but frequently also results in heart failure. Another significant cause of cardiovascular diseases are ageing processes in cardiovascular tissue characterized by scarring, deposits of abnormal forms of proteins in the heart, hardening of the arteries, and accumulation of calcium salts in the arteries and heart valves. These conditions often result in heart arrythmia, isolated systolic arterial hypertension, cardiac hypertrophy, and heart valve disease.

In the end, all these processes cause damage to the heart, which manifests as chronic heart failure. In the Czech Republic, some 230 thousand people suffer from the disease, and this number will increase by approximately 20% in 15 years. At the same time, it is the costliest cardiovascular disease and the leading cause of hospitalization in internal medicine departments. In the Czech Republic, the annual cost of treating heart failure is estimated at 15 to 20 billion CZK.

Despite significant advances, it is evident that the development of new therapeutic methods and pharmaceuticals for the treatment of heart failure and other forms of cardiovascular disease represents a priority in biomedical research. At the center of focus in that research stand therapies affecting the bioenergetics of the heart muscle, intervention in neurohumoral interactions between the heart and kidneys, and therapies affecting specific pathophysiological pathways leading to development of the disease, both on the basis of conventional drugs as well as through interference with gene expression of molecular targets.

What we’re working on and what we’ve accomplished

The goal of the collaboration between IKEM, IOCB, and IPHYS in this area is the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods for the treatment of heart failure and the cardiovascular diseases that precede it, such as coronary atherosclerosis, atrial fibrillations, hypertension and age-related damage to the arteries and valves.

The ongoing projects are based on long-term collaboration between researchers at IPHYS (Prof. Bohuslav Ošťádal, Ing. Michal Pravenec) and IKEM (Prof. Luděk Červenka, Ing. Ludmila Kazdová, Prof. Jan Pirk, Prof. Rudolf Poledne) and focus on:

  • the study of relationships between diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance and their affect on the course and clinical expressions of heart failure (Prof. Terezie Pelikánová and Assoc. Prof. Vojtěch Melenovský – IKEM, Dr. Jan Kopecký – IPHYS);
  • the study of interactions between heart function and kidney function in hypertension and in the early stages of heart failure (Dr. Ivana Vaněčková, Prof. František Kolář, Dr. Josef Zicha, Dr. Jan Neckář – IPHYS, Prof. Luděk Červenka – IKEM);
  • the study of mitochondrial metabolism of the myocardium in patients with heart failure (Dr. Josef Houštěk, Dr. Tomáš Mráček – IPHYS, Assoc. Prof. Vojtěch Melenovský – IKEM),
  • the meaning of adipose tissue metabolism in heart failure and atrial fibrillation (Prof. Martin Haluzík, Assoc. Prof. Vojtěch Melenovský, Prof. Josef Kautzner – IKEM, Dr. Jan Kopecký – IPHYS);
  • the development of tissue substitutes for cardiovascular surgery (Prof. Jan Pirk – IKEM, Assoc. Prof. Lucie Bačáková – IPHYS). 

These projects encompass pathophysiological studies on patients as well as experimental studies on experimental animal models and tissue preparations and have led to multiple collaborative publications in prestigious journals.