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1.9 million euro to research into cardiac valve disease

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet (KI), Sweden, are to undertake a unique project to study the causes, complications and treatment of ascending aortic aneurysms, which often accompanies diseases of the aortal valve. The study will be the largest ever undertaken, and is made possible thanks to a private donation by the Swedish industrialist Fredrik Lundberg.

The term bicuspid aortal valve means that the valve between the left cardiac ventricle and the aorta has two flaps (cusps) instead of the normal three. This defect often leads to complications such as a widening of the aorta, leakage or constriction of the valve, and subsequent heart surgery. Patients with normal tricuspid aortal valves can also suffer from valve-related diseases, but not to the same extent as those with bicuspid valves.

The reason why so many people are born with a defective valve is not fully known. Nor do scientists know why only some of these patients develop problems with the valve and the aorta. More research is also needed into how these patients should undergo surgery for the best results. Researchers are inclined to favour what is known as valve-sparing surgery (which reconstructs the valve) over total valve replacement, something which they will now be examining more closely. A total of 600 patients will be taking part in the study, which is unique in its kind.

The project is led by Professor Anders Franco-Cereceda from KI’s Division of Thorax Surgery and Thorax Anaesthesiology. With him are Professor Anders Hamsten and Senior Lecturer Per Eriksson from the Atherosclerosis Research Unit at KI, Professor Kenneth Caidahl and associate professor Maria Eriksson from the Division of Clinical Physiology at KI, and associate professor Jan Liska of Karolinska University Hospital’s Thorax Clinic.

Industrialist Fredrik Lundberg is contributing a private donation of 18 million kronor (about 1.9 million euro) to the research project. Mr Lundberg is a major shareholder in Holmen, Hufvudstaden, Cardo and Industrivärden through the investment company that bears his name.

“We’re overwhelmed by his generosity, which is not only important to the actual study but also for making sure that Sweden keeps hold of its competent researchers,” says Professor Franco-Cereceda. ”This project is unique in that we’ll be looking at everything, from genetic causes to the consequences of different surgical methods and aftercare.”

Katarina Sternudd | alfa
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