Heart failure represents a significant healthcare challenge due to its high morbidity and mortality rates. Historically, the emphasis has been on heart failure with reduced ejection fraction characterized by left ventricular dilation. However, nearly half of heart failure patients involve diastolic dysfunction due to heart chamber stiffening, known as diastolic heart failure or HFpEF.

The Focus
Research conducted by our consortium indicates that impaired kidney function is an is a strong risk factor for HFpEF. Patients with chronic kidney disease are more prone to developing HFpEF and have higher mortality rates from associated complications. The specific mechanisms by which even slight declines in renal function worsen cardiovascular risk and impact the development and prognosis of HFpEF are not yet fully understood. Insights from RECONNECT highlight the pivotal role of systemic inflammation and microvasculature in this context.

The Research
RECONNEXT (Renal connection to microvascular disease and HFpEF: the next phase) is a multicenter consortium dedicated on advancing medical research on heart failure - particularly heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) - in relation to impaired kidney function.

Specific pre-clinical and clinical research objectives have been defined:

  1. Identify renal drivers for HFpEF onset and progression in subgroups/clusters of HFpEF patients, taking patient-specific risk profiles into account.
  2. Deepen our understanding of the mechanistic pathways involved in the pathogenic cross-talk between renal drivers, systemic inflammation, microvasculature, and cardiac cells leading to HFpEF, using dedicated ex vivo bioassays to assess patient material and in vivo small and large animal models.
  3. Investigate the most promising therapeutic targets in newly developed and well-characterized state-of-the art rodent and porcine models of CKD-associated HFpEF, taking comorbidities into account.
  4. Investigate the most promising therapeutic, diagnostic and prognostic candidate(s) in well-defined patient-groups by taking a stratified approach.

We expect that the results of this project will enhance our mechanistic insight in the renal drivers of HFpEF development and progression and will lead to the development of personalized diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic solutions for HFpEF patients.

The origin

The RECONNECT consortium has provided fundamental knowledge on the connection between chronic kidney disease and HFpEF and established a translational pipeline for the discovery and evaluation of potential diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic targets. RECONNEXT builds upon the success of RECONNECT, established in 2015 (see Figure 1 below), supported by CardioVasculair Onderzoek Nederland (CVON) and the Dutch Heart Foundation. The RECONNEXT consortium consists of nephrologists, cardiologists, general practitioners, and scientists from five leading academic centers in the Netherlands (UMC Utrecht, Erasmus MC, UMC Groningen, Amsterdam UMC, Leiden University) renowned for their expertise in heart failure, vascular biology, and chronic kidney disease.



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Digoxin is the oldest, market-authorized drug for heart failure (HF), and very cheap. A large trial with digoxin, the DIG trial, executed in the early nineties revealed a highly significant reduction in HF hospitalizations, but no effect on mortality. A post-hoc analysis of the DIG trial suggests that low serum concentrations of digoxin may not only improve HF hospitalizations but also mortality in chronic HF patients. To validate these findings, a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial is required to redefine the role of digoxin in modern HF treatment. The Focus The primary objective of this study is to investigate whether low-level digoxin (targeting serum concentrations of 0.5-0.9 ng/mL), compared to a placebo, reduces (repeated) HF hospitalizations, (repeated) urgent HF hospital visits, and cardiovascular mortality when added to standard guideline-recommended therapies in chronic HF patients with reduced or mid-range ejection fractions (LVEF ≤50%). The Research This proposed trial is a national, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 982 chronic HF patients aged ≥18 years, classified as NYHA II to ambulatory IV, LVEF ≤50%, and specific serum NT-proBNP concentrations based on rhythm and recent HF hospitalization status. Patients must also be on guideline-recommended therapies. The study population includes at least one-third with atrial fibrillation (AF) and one-third women to represent the real-life HF population. Patients were randomized to receive either a low-level digoxin or a placebo in a double-blinded manner. Digoxin Teva will be administered orally, starting at doses of 0.2mg or 0.1mg (based on age, renal function, and concomitant medication). No loading dose is given to the placebo group. After 4 weeks of evaluating medication (digoxin or placebo), concentrations will be measured. Dose adjustments will be made if needed to reach the target serum digoxin concentration range of 0.5-0.9ng/mL. The outcomes in reducing adverse cardiovascular events in patients with chronic heart failure of low-dose digoxin will be compared to the outcomes of the placebo.
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The main aim of the Heart4data consortium is to develop a sustainable infrastructure for cardiovascular registry-based research in the Netherlands. This includes governance and Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, research methods, FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data creation and data linkage with relevant databases. Heart4Data is funded by Hartstichting and ZonMW.      About Heart4Data  The Heart4Data consortium is building on the core qualities and experience of DCVA partners. Heart4Data will create a DCVA Health Data Hub that will be part of the DCVA pillar Data Infrastructure to combine all expertises across the different DCVA partners as part of the sustainability program.    In addition, Heart4Data will contribute to improvement of valorisation and implementation through accelerating the generation of results and facilitate DCVA consortia by providing a platform for research at lower operational costs compared to more traditional research methods.    Ambition/Goals  1. To create a national and sustainable FAIR data-based infrastructure for cardiovascular registry-based research.  The infrastructure includes a framework/structure for the governance, and the ethical, legal, financial, technological and methodological factors. There will be a special focus on heart failure in this project by creating a sustainable heart failure (and atrial fibrillation (AF)) registry in the Netherlands Heart Registration (NHR) and links with other relevant national and regional registries and data sources.    2. To use and prove value of the infrastructure by conducting two projects:    - Observational, longitudinal research on the entire spectrum of patients with heart failure (including patients with HFpEF) in the Netherlands (project A) with focus on guideline recommended diagnostic trajectories and treatment.  - Prospective randomized clinical research on pharmaco-therapeutic treatment in patients with chronic heart failure (project B: SELEQT-HF). 
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