Vascular dementia and heart failure represent major health burdens to morbidity, mortality, and quality of life. Comorbidities (hypertension, aging, diabetes, etc.) affect all organs, but the brain and heart are especially sensitive to these chronic stresses resulting in cognitive impairment (a mental disorder) and heart failure (a non-mental disorder). These comorbidities also induce a reduction in microvascular density, called microvascular rarefaction.

Key project: CRUCIAL

Diagnosis of microvascular rarefaction is limited by the inability to assess microvascular density. CRUCIAL will investigate the ability of the newest MRI technology to detect changes in microvascular function using non-contrast diffusion imaging and artificial intelligence methods.

The project will also develop other non-invasive measures of microvascular rarefaction that will be cheaper and easier to widely disseminate in clinical practice (sublingual and retinal microvascular imaging, and blood microvesicle analysis). CRUCIAL will apply these techniques to prospective cohorts with cognitive impairment and heart failure, with the goal of demonstrating that rarefaction can be used as a biomarker to diagnose and stratify patients.

Microvascular regression is now recognised as an active process. This project will therefore investigate the molecular mechanism of vessel rarefaction in the presence of comorbidities that could be targeted therapeutically. Therapeutic options for cognitive impairment or heart failure are currently limited to treating co-morbidities.

The Microvascular Helix is an international Open Innovation community of specialists in vascular diseases and related disciplines. The Helix was launched as a focus for impact and dissemination services in support of the CRUCIAL project's ambition to deliver diagnostic tools to clinicians, and therapeutic pathways to pharma, that target microvascular health. In achieving this ambition, CRUCIAL will contribute towards efforts to prevent cognitive and cardiac disease progression, reduce morbidity, and ultimately improve quality of life for patients worldwide.

The CRUCIAL project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 848109 🇪🇺

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