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Fighting heart failure: funding of millions for systems medicine in Mainz

The researchers record various blood parameters of patients with heart failure by mass spectrometry - and compare them with the corresponding data of healthy people. | © Medistock, Lars Neumann

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Which mechanisms are responsible for the development of heart failure? Scientists at the RheinMain site of the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz want to investigate this question with the help of mass spectrometry. The interdisciplinary research cluster "Data-Independent Acquisition-based Systems Medicine (DIASyM): Mass Spectrometry for High-Throughput Deep Phenotyping of Heart Failure Syndrome" will be funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with 6.8 million euros in the first six years.

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"Up to now, mass spectrometry has played only a minor role in medical diagnostics and has been nowhere close to fulfilling its potential," says Professor Stefan Tenzer, who coordinates the mass-spectrometry technology platform and methods research of the new DIASyM research cluster, explaining that this is mainly due to the lack of standardized procedures and the fact that the devices are often not designed to analyse large numbers of samples. In particular, the Mainz scientists want to improve the mass spectrometric methods for the analysis of protein components, metabolic products and fat components of blood.

Focus on heart failure

Together with DZHK scientist Professor Philipp Wild from the University Medical Center Mainz, Tenzer heads the new research cluster DIASyM. In the first years of the research programme, the interdisciplinary research team will focus in particular on the question of the mechanisms by which different forms of heart failure arise. In Europe alone, 15 million people suffer from heart failure. It is the most frequent cause of hospitalisation in people over 65 years of age and the mortality rate is high. In addition, some heart failure patients respond poorly or not at all to certain treatments.

"A systems-oriented approach will enable us to better understand and explain the interactions between biological processes. For this purpose, we will integrate several levels of data in our analyses and include, for instance, genetic factors and patterns of proteins and metabolites in the blood. We will also incorporate data registered by medical devices and information on the clinical health status of patients," explains Professor Wild, who coordinates systems medicine in the research cluster. "In combination, all these elements will provide us with a basis for developing new approaches to diagnosis, therapy, and prevention of the disease.”

Source: Press release University Medical Center Mainz (in German)