The Brain Awareness Week from March 16-22 is the global campaign to foster public support for brain science. VASCage takes the opportunity to interview its Chief Scientific Officer Prof. Stefan Kiechl, who is Head of the Neurology Department at the Medical University Innsbruck.
Q: The goal of the Brain Awareness Week is to unite partners worldwide with the common theme that brain research is the hope for treatments, preventions, and possible cures and to ensure a better quality of life at all ages. VASCage has recently registered as a partner. Why?
S.K.: VASCage has a particular focus on stroke. Stroke is one of the most devastating diseases with a high burden of disability and morbidity worldwide. Stroke incidence is on the rise worldwide with a substantial increase of patients every year. Currently an alarming 25% of all people will suffer a stroke during lifetime!
It is very important to increase the knowledge about the risk factors in the public. Therefore we are committed to take part in campaigns like the Brain Awareness Week.
Q: Vascular ageing is one of the main research issues at VASCage. Please describe the connection between vascular ageing and stroke!
S.K.: Vascular ageing is one of the main causes of stroke. Vascular ageing comprises a wide range of processes including atherosclerosis and arterial stiffening. All these processes finally lead to thrombus formation, vessel occlusion in the brain and manifestation of an ischemic stroke.
Q: what is the role of arterial stiffening?
S.K.: Arterial stiffness is a prototypic ageing process of the vessels. It can lead to changes in vessel anatomy, e.g. dilation of vessels and formation of aneurysms. All these processes contribute to premature ageing, cardiovascular disease and disability in higher age. In a recently published study we showed that stiffening of the vessels starts early in life and that it progresses differently in men and women.
Q: What can people do to reduce their individual risk for stroke?
S.K.: Vascular ageing starts in the young, therefore prevention of stroke should also start early in life. Common risk factors are overweight, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is the best prevention for vascular ageing and stroke.
Q: VASCage conducts applied research together with partners in industry and academia. Why are these collaborations essential for progress in research?
S.K: They are crucial to translate scientific findings into clinical developments. It is of importance for us that patients benefit directly from our research. And this is best afforded by collaborations between companies which develop new products and scientific excellence.
Q: What is the long-term goal driving the research efforts in VASCage?
S.K.: Our vision is to prolong the healthspan. Healthspan is the lifespan free of disability. It is a matter of fact that the life expectancy is continually increasing but the healthy lifespan is not keeping pace with it. For example in the United States the healthspan has slightly decreased over the past years. It is very important to focus on healthy lifespan in future, because people want to stay healthy as long as possible in their lives.