Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, with an increasing incidence in the aging of the population and a huge socio-economic impact. "Heart failure, for example, has the greatest negative impact on the quality of life, which leads to the interruption of daily management and increases the dependence of caregivers. However, currently there is no effective pharmacological treatment, since it is not possible to reverse the progression of the disease" says David Mecerreyes, Ikerbasque research professor at the UPV/EHU and Polymat, as well as researcher of the European project LION-HEARTED Horizon 2020.
"The European team will carry out an interdisciplinary research focused on the main characteristics of cardiovascular diseases, the development of innovative polymers that can be implanted in animal tissues and be modulated by light, and the design of minimally invasive devices that can act as a healing technology directly restoring the proliferation of cardiac cells and their specific functions" explains the researcher at the UPV/EHU.
The opionic platform LION-HEARTED will be based on the combination of light and organic nanotechnology, so that optical modulation will give us the opportunity to work with an unprecedented, less invasive resolution and greater selectivity with respect to traditional methods of control electrical and pharmaceutical. Our main objective, therefore, is to restore cardiac function and vascularization, directly modulating the fate and proliferation of the main types of cardiovascular cells.
For this, LION-HEARTED will follow three main steps: first, the production of new polymeric materials that are sensitive to light and, at the same time, can promote the differentiation of cardiac progenitors into cardiomyocytes; second, the testing of materials with models of in vitro diseases and the theoretical model of the opto-ceutical platform; third, device engineering and implantation in preclinical models, to have a final proof-of-concept device.
The LION-HEARTED project (Light and Organic Nanotechnology for Cardiovascular Disease) is coordinated by the IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia and has been funded by the European Commission through one of the most technically ambitious funding schemes, the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). The consortium includes 8 partners throughout Europe: IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy), Università degli Studi di Pavia (Italy), Alma Mater Studiorum -Università di Bologna (Italy), IRCCS Istituto Clinico Humanitas (Italy), Technische Universitaet Muenchen (Germany), Universitat Linz (Austria), Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU) y BERC POLYMAT (Spain), Charité - Universitaetsmedizin (Germany).