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LIght and Organic Nanotechnology for Cardiovascular Disease.

Cardiovascular (CV) disease is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, with an increasing incidence in the aging population and a huge socio-economic impact. Heart failure (HF), the common end- point of virtually all CV disorders, displays the greatest negative impact on quality of life, leading to the disruption of daily management and increasing dependence on care-givers. Unfortunately, an effective pharmacological treatment is currently lacking, as it is not possible to reverse disease progression; as a consequence, the long-term survival remains poor, and heart transplantation is the only possibility for end-stage HF patients. Thus, a breakthrough approach to preserve or, at least, restore cardiovascular function and to rescue systemic blood perfusion is urgently required.
The vision of LION-HEARTED is to overcome current limitations of pharmaceutical and electroceutical modulation techniques, by developing a ground-breaking optoceutical toolbox for CV repair. LION-HEARTED will contribute towards a radically new technology to tune the reparative phenotype of the main CV cell types, by first combining two breakthrough elements:
  • use of optoceutics methods, beyond current pharmaceutics and electroceutics
  • use of organic nanomaterials as exogenous light mediators, beyond current limitations of the few available tools for optical modulation

Optical modulation will provide unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution, lower invasiveness, and higher selectivity in respect to traditional electrical and pharmaceutical control methods. Organic semiconductors will act as efficient, highly biocompatible phototransducers, able to trigger biological pathways relevant to cardiac repair, with a minimally invasive and gene-less approach.
The novel optoceutic platform will circumvent the use of prosthesis, pharma and cell-based therapies, thus opening the path to fully unexplored translation opportunities.
The implementation of the program will be based on a highly supradisciplinary approach, combining different expertise and key building blocks:

LION-HEARTED technical objectives are:

  1. Synthesis and functionalization of novel organic semiconducting materials targeted to cardiac regeneration.
  2. Experimental and theoretical description of material/CV cells phenotypes interface processes, in dark and upon light.
  3. Demonstration that organic nanotechnology and light in synergy trigger the reparative process in vitro.
  4. Design, realization and engineering of functional interfaces for in vivo use.
  5. In vivo test on mice models of CV diseases and validation of the approach.
  6. Proof of concept LION-HEARTED interfaces for implantation in pigs.
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The LION-HEARTED final outcome is the realization of a proof of concept, implantable device for enhancing cardiac repair in animal models of ischemia, aneurysm and aortic stenosis.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 FETOPEN 2018-2020 programme under grant agreement No 828984.
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