2022 September 21

Cardiovascular diseases, also a target of the researchers of the Josep Carreras Institute

Dr. Manel Esteller and Dr. Mariona Graupera, researchers at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, will provide support with their experience in the study of hematopoietic stem cells to two research projects funded by the "la Caixa" Foundation, under the Caixa Research program, with the aim of better understanding cardiovascular diseases to improve their treatment options.

The cells responsible for the production of blood components, called hematopoietic stem cells, are one of the main focuses of study in the research against leukemia. The reason is that the alterations these cells cause are responsible for most blood cancers (leukemia, lymphomas and myelomas). However, it has recently been shown that these same alterations could also be related with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure and heart attack.

For this reason, researchers from the Josep Carreras Institute, with a wide expertise in the analysis of hematopoietic stem cells, have joined two consortiums coordinated by the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research (ISCII-CNIC) to provide support to the study of how alterations in blood cells affect cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, Dr. Manel Esteller, leader of the Cancer Epigenetics group and Director of the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute, ICREA professor and professor of genetics at the UB, will study how the acquisition of mutations in hematopoietic stem cells, a distinctive characteristic of tissue aging, leads to the appearance of clonal hematopoiesis – when an altered cell proliferates until it becomes dominant in the tissue – and its relationship with heart failure.

The project, led by Dr. José Javier Fuster (ISCII-CNIC), will also include Dr. Núria López Bigas (ICREA, IRBBarcelona) and doctors Antoni Bayés Genís (IGTP) and Domingo Andrés Pascual (FFIS Murcia). Patients with heart failure often require long hospital stays and are at high risk of death.

On the other hand, Dr. Mariona Graupera, leader of the Endothelial Pathology and Microenvironment group at the Josep Carreras Institute, will participate in a project focused on improving the regeneration of tissue affected by a heart attack. Although 7 out of 10 people with a heart attack manage to recover, it is still the leading cause of death in developed countries.

In heart attack survivors, recovery is complex due to the low activity of vascular cells in the affected area and the slow regeneration of heart tissue, which carries a higher risk of complications in the future.

The consortium, led by Dr. Rui Benedito (ISCII-CNIC) with the collaboration of Drs. Holger Heyn (CRG) and Rafael Kramann (University Hospital RWTH), will study drugs and genetic pathways that can awaken these vascular cells and improve tissue regeneration capacity, helping post-infarction recovery.

With these two collaborations, it is highlighted that hematopoiesis is important for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system and that the blood-vasculature system works as an interconnected whole. The union of specialists from both areas will lead to a better understanding of the system and will open the door to the development of new ways of treating cardiovascular diseases.