Pulmonary hypertension (PH) describes a group of chronic, prolonged crippling and fatal vascular diseases. It is characterized by high blood pressure in the lung vessels leading to right heart failure. PH often affects young or middle-aged patients, who suffer progressive loss of exercise capacity and dyspnoea. As a result, this serious lung disease represents a major burden on our healthcare systems.
At the beginning of this year, the multidisciplinary lung research project ‘Pulmotension’ was granted European Union (EU) funding of 11.4 million euros, over a four-year period to better understand and find a cure for this major health problem. Pulmotension integrates 31 institutions at leading EU centres, in association with industrial partners in 12 European countries.
This pan-European initiative allows the collaborating researchers to investigate basic science questions in terms of clinical applicability and provides a unique potential for scientific breakthroughs, technological advances and new treatments for pulmonary hypertension. ‘In this translational research concept the lung experts work “from bench to bedside” or “from the molecule to the patient”, said Werner Seeger, Head of the University of Giessen Lung Centre (UGLC) of the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Germany. ‘Over the next four years, we aim to uncover underlying molecular pathways of PH, identify distinct targets for anti-remodelling therapy, foster drug development based on these targets in alliance with industrial partners and exploitation facilities, and carefully test these new treatment options in preclinical and clinical trials. This is a huge but thrilling organizational challenge for all of us.’
The combined expertise in Pulmotension extends from the initial discovery of gene mutations in PH to the establishment of new therapeutic regimen of PH. These include the discovery of BMPR2 mutations in PH, an effort led by Professor Richard Trembath (King’s College, London, UK) or the introduction of sildenafil (Viagra) into the treatment of PH by a team of physicians led by Professor Friedrich Grimminger (UGLC, Germany).