59 million in funding to boost knowledge of cardiovascular disease


Of the SEK 59 million in grants for research at Sahlgrenska Academy from the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation, the majority (SEK 53 million) goes to projects at the Institute of Medicine. The funds will provide new insights into how vesicles contribute to inflammation in the airways during asthma, how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to evaluate sleep, and how to reduce complications after cardiac surgery.

About a quarter of all cardiac surgery patients experience atrial fibrillation after surgery, a condition that in the worst case can become permanent. The number of people affected depends on factors like the type of surgery performed and the patient’s age, but the percentage has been steady over the past 30 years.

“Why this affects some and not others is a bit of a mystery, and we will try to learn more about it,” says Anders Jeppsson, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery and a consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

He has been awarded SEK 4.5 million from the Heart Lung Foundation to study how complications after cardiac surgery, including atrial fibrillation, can be reduced. Using blood and tissue samples, his research team will try to find clues to the mechanisms behind the complications. The work is in collaboration with researchers conducting basic cardiovascular and metabolic research at the Wallenberg Laboratory.

Fewer complications from cardiac surgery

Anders Jeppson, professor and consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Anders Jeppson, professor and consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Photo: Privat

Different types of complications can occur after cardiac surgery. In addition to atrial fibrillation, patients can also suffer from bleeding, infections, and stroke. The overall goal of Anders Jeppsson’s research is to reduce complications and improve survival after cardiac surgery. He uses both registry studies, treatment studies in which participants randomly receive different treatments, and basic research.

“The goal is to identify which factors increase the risk of complications, to optimize treatment before, during, and after surgery, and to improve medication after surgery to reduce the risk of the underlying disease recurring.”

Among other things, his team will investigate how the use of platelet inhibitors (blood-thinning medications) can be optimized after coronary artery bypass surgery. An investigation of this is underway in a large Nordic randomized study initiated and led by Jeppsson that includes over 2,200 patients from 21 Nordic clinics. The study is funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation and Region Västra Götaland.

“Current recommendations for medication after cardiac surgery are poorly supported by evidence, and we need more knowledge to optimize treatments,” says Jeppsson.

Examining the role of vesicles in asthma

Cecilia Lässer, researcher at the Institute of Medicine.
Cecilia Lässer, researcher at the Institute of Medicine.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

About eight percent of Swedes have asthma, a disease caused by chronic inflammation of the respiratory tract. Asthma is divided into several subgroups (phenotypes) that can have different symptoms and require different treatment. It is not known why the inflammation occurs, and more knowledge is needed about both the mechanisms that create the inflammation and how treatment can be optimized for different patients.

Cecilia Lässer is a researcher at the Krefting Research Centre, which conducts research on allergy and pulmonary medicine. She receives SEK 1.2 million to investigate how extracellular vesicles can be linked to different types of asthma. Vesicles are very small membrane vacuoles that have functional molecules (e.g., proteins and RNA), which the vesicles can transport to surrounding cells and affect the physical properties of other cells.

“We hypothesize that cells in the respiratory tract change their signaling molecules in the vesicles they release and that they affect the ongoing inflammation in this way. We also believe that this process differs for different types of asthma,” says Lässer.

The research team’s goal is to contribute knowledge on how cells in the respiratory tract communicate through vesicles and what role the vesicles play in maintaining inflammation. They also hope to find diagnostic markers so that vesicles from the respiratory tract can be used to identify different subgroups of asthma.

“In this way we should be able to develop more effective and individualized treatments in the future.

Developing AI to study sleep

Ludger Grote, adjunct professor and consultant at Sahlgrenska Universitetssjukhuset.
Ludger Grote, adjunct professor and consultant at Sahlgrenska Universitetssjukhuset.
Photo: Johan Wingborg.

Sleep has a major impact on our health, but the field needs to fill knowledge gaps. Better methods for studying sleep could contribute new knowledge on how to best treat common cardiovascular diseases and pulmonary diseases, such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

This will be investigated by a team at the Institute of Medicine headed by Ludger Grote, an adjunct professor at the Sleep Disorder Center and consultant at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Little is known within this area, because it is difficult to analyze respiratory and cardiovascular function during sleep. Traditional sleep diagnostics require complex equipment, and specially trained personnel usually analyze the read outs manually.

“This creates long waiting times and limited access to investigations and treatment. The connection between the data collected and the patient’s problems also is usually limited, which can make it difficult to choose the right treatment method,” says Grote.

Can revolutionize diagnostics and treatment

Grote’s team is developing new and simpler methods for monitoring cardiovascular function, the autonomic nervous system, and the mechanisms that control breathing during sleep. It is also applying new methods for assessing the data. This makes it possible to gain new insights into patient morbidity and the risk of serious complications.

“As our next step, we will develop artificial intelligence to characterize normal and unhealthy breathing and cardiovascular function during sleep. The analysis is specifically aimed at patients with obstructive sleep apnea and COPD, but it also includes other sleep-related diseases.”

The work is being conducted together with a large European network of sleep researchers. The project has been named “Sleep Revolution,” which Ludger Grote thinks provides a good perspective on the goal of the research.

“The knowledge will have great clinical significance for both diagnostics and treatment. Through new methods and simpler sleep examinations, we can find better answers to the questions that are most relevant for patients and create better access to care for patients with sleep disorders.”

A total of 23 researchers at the Institute of Medicine have been awarded funding in this round of grants, including three who have received funding for two projects.

Read more about the distribution in Akademiliv (Academy Life).

PHOTO: Johan Wingborg, Private

All recipients 2022

Recipients at the Institute of medicines who receive funding from the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation’s major round of applications 2022

Lennart Bergfeldt
Prevention av plötslig hjärtdöd: studier av elektrofysiologiska mekanismer på hög-risk individer och friska personer
800 000 kronor

Göran Bergström
Towards personalized risk prediction of cardiovascular disease
2 700 000 kronor

Jan Borén
Triglyceride-rich Lipoproteins and Cardiovascular Disease
5 400 000 kronor

Fredrik Bäckhed
Gut microbiota and cardiovascular disease: from patient to metabolite
5100 000 kronor

Mats Börjesson
Individualized physical activity recommendations for cardiovascular health: a SCAPIS program in precision health
1 500 000 kronor

Lena Carlsson
The role of genetic susceptibility and somatic mutation-driven clonal hematopoiesis in the development of cardiovascular disease in patients with obesity treated by bariatric surgery or usual care
1 500 000 kronor

Mikael Dellborg
Psykisk ohälsa hos personer med medfött hjärtfel
500 000 kronor

Göran Dellgren
Mekanisk perfusion med kort- och långtidspumpar vid terminal hjärtsvikt.
3 400 000 kronor

Mikael Fu
Optimizing Aldosterone Receptor Antagonist Therapy by Sodium Zirconium Cyclosilicate in Heart Failure (OPRA-HF)
1 000 000 kronor

Ludger Grote
“Sleep Revolution”: Improved cardiopulmonary phenotyping during sleep in respiratory disease
2 100 000 kronor

Ludger Grote
”Sömnapné och högt blodtryck – epidemiologiska, diagnostiska och behandlingsmässiga aspekter”
880 000 kronor

Jan Hedner
Utveckling av den första läkemedelsterapin vid sömnapné. Explorering av fundamentala mekanismer relaterade till inhibition av karbanhydras.
3 000 000 kronor

Anders Jeppsson
Prevention och behandling av komplikationer efter hjärtkirurgi
4 500 000 kronor

Hannu Kankaanranta
COVID-19 i Västsverige: långtidsuppföljning av hjärt- och lunghälsa med kliniska undersökningar och via register
400 000 kronor

Hannu Kankaanranta
Att leta efter det som inte syns: Precisionsmedicin för att identifiera karaktäristika och behandling för T2-låg astma hos vuxna
1 800 000 kronor

Marcus Lind
Hjärtinfarkt, hjärtsvikt, förmaksflimmer och stroke över tid i befolkningen och i riskgrupper; en analys med ett internationellt perspektiv.
1 800 000 kronor

Cecilia Lässer
Extracellulära vesiklars roll i luftvägarna vid olika astmafenotyper
1 200 000 kronor

Jan Lötvall
Extracellular Vesicles to Prevent or Treat Severe Respiratory Inflammatory Disease
1 500 000 kronor

Fredrik Nyberg
Risk, insjuknande och komplikationer av COVID-19 hos hjärt-kärl- och lungsjuka –longitudinell nationell registerstudie med regelbunden datauppdatering
400 000 kronor

Fredrik Nyberg
Risk, insjuknande och komplikationer av COVID-19 hos hjärt-kärl- och lungsjuka –longitudinell nationell registerstudie med regelbunden datauppdatering
1 500 000

Anna-Carin Olin
Exposure to airway irritants and the risk of permanent of respiratory impairment after Covid-19
400 000 kronor

Anna-Carin Olin
Exponering, Covid-19 och påverkan på små luftvägar
2 400 000 kronor

Björn Redfors
Re-defining care in acute ischemic heart failure – focus on myocardial stunning
1 600 000 kronor

Annika Rosengren
Obesity over the life course and cardiometabolic disease – a perfect storm in the post-COVID-19 pandemic setting
4 350 000 kronor

Maria Rosvall
Is an optimistic mind associated with healthy arteries and better lung function?
400 000 kronor

Åsa Tivesten
Fysiologiska och patofysiologiska effekter av androgener inom hjärt-kärlsystemet
3 300 000 kronor

Maria Åberg
COVID-19 och sena komplikationer i hjärta-kärl och lungor i relation till tidigare kardiovaskulära riskfaktorer och socioekonomi
500 000 kronor