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Grant of $6.5 million for research project on cardiovascular disease

MedUni Vienna to coordinate consortium investigating the role of B cells in cardiovascular disease
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(Vienna, 02 June 2020) Christoph Binder, Professor of Atherosclerosis Research at MedUni Vienna is to coordinate an international research network investigating the role of B cells in cardiovascular disease. The project is being funded by the Leducq Foundation within the scope of a Transatlantic Networks of Excellence programme with a sum of 6.5 million US dollars (€5.9 million).

Christoph Binder from MedUni Vienna's Department of Laboratory Medicine is European and Lead Coordinator for the project

B lymphocytes are immune cells that produce antibodies and provide long-term immunity. Although B cells are an important therapeutic target in cancer and rheumatological autoimmune diseases, there are still considerable gaps in our understanding of the role that B cells could play in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Clinicians and basic researchers will be working together in an international consortium over a period of five years to clarify the role of B cells in atherosclerosis and its complications. Christoph Binder from MedUni Vienna's Department of Laboratory Medicine is European and Lead Coordinator for the project, which includes partners from Harvard Medical School (North American Coordinator Filip Swirski), the University of Cambridge, the Karolinska Institutet and the University of Virginia. The project will be funded by the international Leducq Foundation, with a total grant of 6.5 million US dollars.

B lymphocytes a promising therapeutic approach
The most common consequences of atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the arteries, are heart attacks and strokes. High cholesterol levels are responsible for the development of atherosclerosis, as these lipids accumulate in the artery wall and trigger an inflammatory reaction. Recent clinical studies have shown that, in addition to lowering cholesterol, anti-inflammatory drugs can protect from cardiovascular events. However, these drugs have a broad anti-inflammatory action and are therefore also linked to an increased susceptibility to infection. Thus, there is a pressing need to identify specific drugs that do not have this side-effect. B lymphocytes, a subgroup of white blood cells, which play a major role in the immune response and the production of antibodies, are highly promising in this respect.

The consortium for B cells in cardiovascular disease (BCVD) will provide an in-depth characterisation of these cells and their role in human atherosclerosis and will test the mechanisms by which they promote disease or protect against disease in preclinical models. Based on these findings, new innovative therapeutic interventions, which can eventually be used as a more targeted anti-inflammatory treatment to prevent atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, will be developed.

"Our aim is to develop B-cell-targeted treatments for cardiovascular disease by mapping both the harmful and the protective properties of these cells in human disease and functionally investigating their role in experimental models," explains Christoph Binder.

The Leducq Foundation is an international granting organisation with the mission of improving human health through transatlantic efforts to combat cardiovascular disease and stroke. By forging scientific alliances that transcend national borders and educating young researchers in an international context, it promotes innovation in cardiovascular and stroke research and develops long-term collaborative relationships.