Cardiovascular diseases and their associated complications like stroke, heart failure or organ dysfunction currently account for 40% of deaths and impact significantly on costly long-term health care. This is a world-wide trend that is increasing at an alarming rate in European countries. Cardiovascular diseases are commonly associated with large vessel atherosclerosis; however, there is accumulating evidence that major disturbances occur in the small arteries that control tissue perfusion. In particular, these vessels undergo extreme reductions in their size and function in hypertension, aging, diabetes, obesity, and a sedentary life style, a process known as remodelling. Such changes manifest in malperfusion-related organ deterioration, including cognitive decline, heart failure and kidney failure. In addition, remodelling aggravates hypertension, which is a major risk for acute events, notably stroke and myocardial infarction.
Yet, despite this societal relevance, there is a marked paucity of research on this aspect of the vascular system. There is a consequent lack of innovation in diagnostic and therapeutic tools based on small artery remodelling. Our network will provide a wealth of information on small artery biology and potential therapeutic targets. New possibilities appear at the horizon, including inducible progenitor cell therapy, interference with micro-RNAs and personalised medicine. Hence, there is much to gain, but this will require a critical mass of interdisciplinary expertise on small artery remodelling. Our mission therefore is to train young scientists to become independent researchers and entrepreneurs in this rapidly growing field of small artery remodelling.