Atherosclerosis of coronary arteries - where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances, such as cholesterol – is the main cause of coronary artery disease which in turn can cause an occlusion of the artery leading to ischaemic damage of the heart muscle and subsequently heart failure. Overall, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, while chronic heart failure itself causes a significant number of illness and deaths.
Professor Krieg and colleagues use a mouse model of myocardial infarction in order to mimic these events happening in a patient. Due to the high complexity of heart ischaemia and failure within the whole organism and its widespread consequences on circulation, inflammation response, and cardiac remodelling, cell-based models cannot be used. Instead, the team use state-of-the-art techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging, to minimise the suffering of the animal while ensuring that we obtain high-quality data in as few animals as possible.
They then test various interventions, such as novel drugs, which are able to render the heart resistant against the lack of oxygen during an infarct and, hence, reduce the onset of heart failure and ultimately increase survival. If these compounds and interventions are successful in mice, they will then be taken forward to clinical use in patients with a myocardial infarction or heart failure