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April 15 2024

Ghent University research team receives prestigious Everest Award for Marfan syndrome research


The Marfan Foundation has awarded its second Everest Award to research team led by Prof. Julie De Backer, a pivotal member of the VASCERN Heritable Thoracic Aortic Diseases Working Group (HTAD WG) and a cardiologist and clinical geneticist at Ghent University. The award recognizes her leadership in pioneering research aimed at developing preventive treatments for aortic dissection in patients with Marfan syndrome, potentially reducing the need for surgical intervention.

Marfan syndrome is a life-altering genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissue and can lead to severe complications in the heart and blood vessels. Prof. De Backer’s project, titled “Contribution of immune cells to vascular wall damage and dissection in Marfan syndrome,” will focus on the critical role of immune cells in the aortic wall damage in Marfan syndrome. With an initial grant of $220,000 and potential funding of up to $880,000 over four years, her research could lead to a new era of treatment strategies that are less invasive and more effective.

By investigating the complex interactions between immune cells and the vascular wall in Marfan patients, Prof. De Backer’s team is using state-of-the-art techniques to explore innovative therapeutic possibilities. Their research aims not only to better understand these dynamics, but also to translate their findings into clinical practice, potentially transforming patient care for those living with this challenging condition.

This project is a testament to the power of collaboration in scientific research, involving experts from around the world. Prof. De Backer is working with, among others, Dr. Patrick Sips at Ghent University and Dr. Hiromi Yanagisawa in Tsukuba, Japan, promoting a rich interdisciplinary dialogue that enhances the quality and scope of their investigative efforts.

The Marfan Foundation’s support through the Everest Award is instrumental in enabling researchers like Prof. De Backer to push the boundaries of what is possible in medical science. Dr. Craig T. Basson, Chair of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, noted the project’s potential to “define foundational properties of immune cells in Marfan syndrome and set the stage for novel approaches to therapies.”

For more information, visit the Marfan Foundation website here.

Congratulations to Prof. Julie De Backer, Liesbeth Wildero Van Wouwe and Prof. Laura Muiño Mosquera on this award.

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