The former CVON-ARENA programme (2012-2017) advanced understanding of cardiac RNA species in heart failure (microRNAs, lncRNAs and circular RNAs).The CVON-ARENA programme (2012-2017) advanced understanding of cardiac RNA species, such as microRNAs, lncRNAs, and circular RNAs, in various forms of heart failure (HF). This subsequent DCVA-ARENA-PRIME programme (2018-2023) targets treatment-resistant HF forms, particularly in younger patients with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) or arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM).

The Focus

In preceding decades, conventional therapies have notably enhanced the survival rates of heart failure (HF) patients. However, a subset of individuals, particularly younger patients afflicted with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) or arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM), still confront disease progression despite these treatments. This underscores the necessity for innovative approaches. The DCVA-ARENA-PRIME initiative aims to address this gap by focusing on the development of novel gene therapies tailored to the specific disease mechanisms underlying DCM, attributed to mutations in the RBM20 and LMNA genes, as well as ACM, and associated with mutations in the DSGL2 and PKP2 genes. The goal is to progress towards first-in-human clinical trials, particularly focusing on LMNA disease, and to establish preclinical proof-of-concept for ACM therapies targeting DSGL2 and PKP2.

The Research

The DCVA-ARENA-PRIME researchers utilize insights from previous programmes on cardiac gene therapies (e.g., inhibitory RNAs such as allele-specific short hairpin RNAs, antimiRs, etc.) and gene editing technologies (e.g., base- and prime editing) to develop novel treatments for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM). This effort is supplemented by advanced research on adeno-associated viral vectors and the integration of heart tissue collections with cutting-edge sequencing technologies (like single-cell sequencing) to further explore disease mechanisms.

At the beginning of the DCVA-ARENA-PRIME programme, a (end-) user committee has been established, making sure that (end-)users are  closely involved in the design of the studies and the implementation of the co-created studies and deliverables. This committee meets annually alongside the program's research meetings to provide guidance to investigators on optimizing the program's outcomes for (end-) users. It addresses all feedback, inquiries, and recommendations, whether requested or spontaneous.

This committee meets once per year in conjunction with the programme’s research meetings and advises the investigators about the course of the programme and what actions need to be taken in order to maximise the probability that the (end-) users will be able to utilize and/or benefit from the results. This committee addresses any comments, remarks, questions and advice they may have, solicited or otherwise.

The members of the DCVA-ARENA-PRIME user committee include cardiomyopathy patients and their relatives, clinicians (e.g. cardiologists), representatives from related research programs (e.g., RegMedXB, H2020-TRAIN-HEART), and industry stakeholders including biotech and pharma company representatives and venture capitalists.

Supporting Young Investigators

The programme prioritizes attracting and nurturing young talent, providing hands-on training and fellowship awards to facilitate their career development. Over 20 young investigators participate, benefiting from exposure to collaborative research environments.

To further support this career development, five fellowship awards of 50.000€ have been granted the past three years to junior postdoctoral researchers in the laboratories of the Hubrecht Institute, University Medical Center Utrecht, Amsterdam UMC (location VUmc and AMC) and Maastricht University.

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Contact person:

Prof. dr. Y. Pinto (Yigal)

Principal investigators

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The eCG Family Clinic

Inherited cardiovascular diseases often run in families, with a 50% chance of passing on the disease-causing genetic defect to children. When a genetic mutation is found in the first family member diagnosed (called the proband), other relatives can get tested to see if they have the same mutation and – when they are carrier - be monitored and timely treated if needed. Unfortunately, less than half of the at-risk relatives don't seek genetic counseling in the first years of the proband's diagnosis. The eCG (electronic Cardiovascular Genetics) Family Clinic was created to stimulate families to test themselves after the diagnosis of the proband by making this process easier and more accessible. The Research In the eCG Family Clinic consortium, a team of software experts, doctors, and specialists in ethics, law, economics, communication, and psychology work together to develop and implement a virtual clinic that offers personalized information and support through a virtual assistant, allowing relatives to make informed decisions about testing and treatment. Because this consortium believes that involving all possible affected stakeholders is crucial for its success, it frequently consults with probands, family members, healthcare professionals, and advocates to understand their needs. The prototype is designed while keeping the important economic, ethical, and legal aspects of this new approach in mind. The prototype of the eCG Family Clinic is tested in real healthcare settings to see how well it works compared to current practices
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