CUHK Innovative Approach for Early Detection of Preclinical Heart Failure Receives “Catalyst Award” of the Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge
Dr. Erik Yee Mun George Fung, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CU Medicine), received the “Catalyst Award” of the Heathy Longevity Global Grand Challenge initiated by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine. He has proposed an innovative approach for early detection of preclinical heart failure by characterising levels of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath, which upon validation could lead to the development of a cost-effective biomarker panel for screening at-risk older adults in the community.
Heart failure is predominantly an aging-related disorder, and its prevalence is expected to increase with the growing aging population which adds a huge demand to the existing burden on the health care system. Using a breath test as a non-invasive medical screening tool has attracted more attention in recent years due to its simple implementation. Exhaled breath contains a multitude of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) originating from both exogenous and endogenous sources. With the support of artificial intelligence technology, it is possible to detect early metabolic abnormality of the body by analysing the composition and concentration of VOCs.
Most breath tests currently available target cancer biomarkers. Dr. Fung’s team is applying this technology to pioneer the profiling of cardiovascular disease including preclinical heart failure. Dr. Fung said, “With aging, heart muscles become stiff and fail to relax to allow filling of the chambers (diastolic dysfunction), leading to congestion of the circulation in the lungs and other tissues. In patients with diastolic dysfunction or heart failure, biochemical changes can be detectable in the heart, vessels, bloodstream, and exhaled breath. Past studies have demonstrated early metabolic shifts in the heart from the utilisation of fatty acids to ketones and pentanes. These and other VOCs may be detectable on an exhaled breath test in preclinical heart failure. Patients who have been flagged for increased risks could then be identified and treated at significantly earlier stages.”
Dr. Fung is a cardiologist subspecialising in heart failure and circulatory disorders. He leads a team of researchers in the Laboratory for Heart Failure and Circulation Research, Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Science, CU Medicine. Collaborating with him on this project is Dr. Susanna SS Ng, Assistant Professor and respiratory medicine specialist, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CU Medicine.
About the Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge
Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards are part of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition founded by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and are available in nearly 50 countries and regions. The Global Competition aims to accelerate ideas, research, innovations and products to support healthy longevity through a series of monetary awards and prizes.
The first Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards in Hong Kong was co-organized by CUHK and The University of Hong Kong. Each Catalyst Award includes a US$50,000 cash prize for a period of 12 months as well as travel costs to attend an annual Innovator Summit. Catalyst awardees will have the opportunity to join the next phases of the global competition. For more information, please refer to the Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards (Hong Kong) competition website.