Cardiovascular disease begins early in life, well before development of clinical symptoms. Preventive measures are of great importance but a key challenge to implement this in cardiovascular medicine is to gain a better understanding of the underlying pathways involved in development of cardiovascular disease. Only then can therapeutic strategies be targeted to primary prevention with emphasis on early vascular changes in cardiovascular disease development. Our research programme focuses on the role of endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffness, which are central to the early development and progression of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.
It is also clear that different parts of the cardiovascular system develop disease at different stages and at different rates so that not all parts of the cardiovascular system are affected to the same extent. It is therefore becoming clear that a range of biomarkers, measuring different vascular beds and different aspects of vascular function, are required to gain a better understanding of development and progression of cardiovascular disease. A major component of our research involves the use of non-invasive techniques (laser Doppler imaging, laser speckle contrast imaging, ultrasound, pulse wave analysis) for exploring the microcirculation and macrocirculation. These state-of-the-art techniques are being applied to a programme of research that explores basic science signalling pathways through to clinical disease.
The above techniques using a combination of biomarkers provide a global assessment of vascular function and will help increase our understanding of the development and progression of large and small blood vessel disease, and for determining cardiovascular risk and outcome. These tests are being applied within The Institute of Cardiovascular Research to a programme of research that investigates the possible factors involved in early endothelial dysfunction and its modification in normal children and adults, and in asymptomatic disease, as well as in established vascular disease states.