The CRUCIAL study is a programme of research funded by the EU Horizon Commission that is looking at how comorbidities (having more than one medical condition at once), such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, affect both the brain and heart.
The research group brings together 12 partners from multiple fields including clinicians, scientists, and patients representing seven countries including the UK, Netherlands, Spain and Greece. It’s hoped that by undertaking this research at an international level, there will be more sharing of ideas and technologies which will lead to better outcomes for patients.
These comorbidities are linked to the development of diastolic heart failure, (where some of the chambers in the heart don’t pump properly), but also to vascular dementia (a type of dementia caused by restricted blood flow to the brain). There is a common theory that both these conditions arise because of a reduction in microvascular density (fewer blood vessels in the brain) causing reduced blood supply. As part of this study, the consortium will enhance and develop a range of clinical tools, including imaging techniques and blood tests, which will enable them to measure and investigate the role of reduced blood flow in cognitive impairment and heart failure. The hope is that they will be able to diagnose people earlier before permanent damage occurs.
The research aims to identify biomarkers for measuring brain capillary density, study how capillary patterns change in the heart and brain of elderly patients who have a range of comorbidities, and look for genes that may affect the microvascular patterns including blood flow and density of capillaries. The findings from each of the strands of research will ultimately lead to new discoveries about how the interaction of other health conditions can affect the blood supply to the brain and the heart, and identify biomarkers that can be used to trace vascular changes.