COVIRNA project featured at the European events on cardiovascular medicine
In April, the COVIRNA project was featured at three European events focused on cardiovascular medicine. Dr Yvan Devaux, the COVIRNA Project Coordinator, represented the project at the final EU-CARDIOPROTECTION COST Action meeting on 2-4 April in Coimbra (Portugal), 2nd Olympiad in Cardiovascular Medicine on 27-30 April in Heraklion (Greece) and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Biomedicine meeting on 29 April-1 May in Budapest (Hungary).
Dr Devaux presented the background research on the discovery of lncRNA, a biomarker used in COVIRNA to identify COVID-19 patients at risk of developing fatal cardiovascular complications. lncRNAs are RNA molecules with more than 200 nucleotides, unable to encode proteins. They play a key role in the occurrence and development of myocardial infarction, heart failure, myocardial hypertrophy, arrhythmias and other pathological processes that significantly affect the prognosis and survival of patients with cardiovascular diseases.
Dr Devaux also presented the COVIRNA project, providing an overview of the COVIRNA Consortium, project objectives, methodology, and envisaged impact. Although the lungs are the main organs involved in COVID-19, one of the major systems affected by the virus is the cardiovascular system. It is estimated that 20% of patients infected with COVID-19 do not die from pulmonary but cardiac problems. COVIRNA will develop a diagnostic tool to identify COVID-19 patients at risk of developing cardiovascular problems and look into ways they can be managed properly. The tool will help healthcare providers improve individualised surveillance, care and follow-up of COVID-19 patients in the context of the current pandemic.
To achieve this goal, COVIRNA will build a biobank of 2,000 blood samples from existing cohorts of COVID-19 patients throughout Europe to perform a multi-centre international study. COVIRNA will then identify a subset of highly specific lncRNAs that are predictive of COVID-19 clinical outcomes using bioinformatics, Artificial Intelligence and biostatistics. lncRNAs identified as best predictors of outcome will be investigated for their functional association with the disease and its progression.
The COVIRNA Consortium is composed of 15 partners from 12 countries committed to developing the COVIRNA diagnostic tool. The partner organisations bring in multidisciplinary and complementary expertise from academia, research, industry, health management, and healthcare. The project kicked off during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020, but with an improved understanding of long-term COVID effects, it is clear that the impact of COVIRNA will be far-reaching.
Reflecting on his participation in the events, Dr Devaux said:
‘Attending events like these is very valuable as it allows us to think about future research activities, network with other researchers and establish contacts for future research projects. It is a great opportunity to promote the work of COVIRNA and to explore opportunities for collaboration with similar projects. Research is important but so are networking, communication and dissemination. All of these are essential for the realisation of research projects.’
Dr Yvan Devaux, Head of the Cardiovascular Research Unit, Luxembourg Institute of Health; COVIRNA Project Coordinator