Clinical Applicability

We do a lot of really cool and scientifically interesting stuff in both our lab and the field as a whole. We have now developed our technology to the point where we can take an MRI scan of a heart and develop a complete model, with accurate fiber directions from diffusion tensor data, in a matter of days if not hours. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the technology and the science and lose sight of clinical endpoints.

This past week, we had the good fortune to be visited by a research scientist from a device company. He pointed out that despite the great sophistication of our knowledge about various CEP minutiae, there remain basic problems with pacing and defibrillation therapies, and with our knowledge of cardiovascular disease in general.

And that brings up a very important point. At times, I’ve felt like we’re patching the symptoms instead of fixing the problem — by researching heart attacks that result primarily from cardiovascular disease, we’re redirecting effort that could be spent on eliminating cardiovascular disease in the first place. For example, it seems vegetarians may have around a 20% smaller risk of death from ischemic heart disease than non-vegetarians. Occasional meat eaters fall between meat-eaters and vegetarians. (Please note that I don’t think that one study is conclusive — I haven’t done a thorough literature search.) To keep things honest, this study suggests that in British vegetarians, differences in mortality may be due to other lifestyle factors.

Here are some other articles on the subject, with their conclusions:

After reading over these abstracts, my suspicions and some things I have heard have been confirmed: It’s really hard to get conclusive evidence out of human studies.

Even if everyone on the planet simultaneously switched to the optimum diet for minimizing heart disease, whatever that is, there would still be a need for treatment of ischemic heart disease in the form of defibrillator devices for the next several decades, as in many people the damage is already done. With that in mind, it is important that we as a research community focus our work on developing helpful therapies rather than keeping to our ivory towers.

One thought on “Clinical Applicability

Comments are closed.