Cardiologist Valentín Fuster explained the risk factors of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases at the 17th Vall d'Hebron Scientific Conference

The event included several oral presentations by internal researchers and the traditional poster competition.


The 17th Scientific Conference of the Vall d'Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus was held on Friday, 24 November. This year the star guest speaker was the prestigious cardiologist, Dr  Valentín Fuster, who presented the 27th annual conference, focusing on the study of Imagenomics to understand and predict the evolution of silent atherosclerosis and thus prevent it from developing into heart disease or other pathologies such as neurodegenerative diseases. Attendees were also able to enjoy a small taste of the great quality and diversity of the research carried out by the Vall Hebron Research Institute, the Vall Hebron Institute of Oncology and the Vall d'Hebron Hospital Research Group.  The traditional poster competition was also organised, open to predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers, residents, and nurses. 

The day began with a welcome from Dr Antonio Roman, director of care at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, who acted as host.  This was followed by Dr Begoña Benito, director of the VHIR, who said that "today is a perfect opportunity to discover all the research activity that takes place on the Campus". Dr Enriqueta Felip, section head of the Medical Oncology Department at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital and head of the Thoracic Tumour Group at VHIO, stressed "the ever-present need to continue research to improve the lives of patients" and added that conferences like this one that allow us to "share our experiences and create synergies, are very positive". María Àngels Barba, Director of Nursing at Vall d'Hebron Hospital, closed the welcoming speeches, reminding us that "the world of research is not easy, but it is worth overcoming the difficulties to improve patients' health". She noted that there are currently 27 nurses and physiotherapists studying for a doctorate, a very positive increase that she hopes will continue in the coming years.

A taste of the research carried out on the Campus

As Dr Roman said "one of the objectives of the day is to discover all the research carried out here in order to increase synergies and multidisciplinary and translational collaborations", and for this reason the first event of the day was a block of eleven short lectures as a small demonstration of the high quality and diversity of the research carried out on the Campus.

On behalf of the VHIR, a conference has been held for each Collaborative Research Area (eCORE) of the institution. These spaces are designed to allow collaboration between different research groups to respond to the current challenges in the field of health. First, Dr Pepa Soler, representing the Chronic and Prevalent Diseases and Ageing eCORE, presented new treatments for Diabetes II. Second was Dr Pere Soler, coordinator of the Women and Children’s Health eCORE, and Rare Diseases, explaining the use of artificial intelligence to detect hereditary immunodeficiency early.  Dr M José Buzón, representing the Global Health eCORE, commented on his research to better understand the persistence of the primary immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as the first step towards finding definitive care. For the Personalised Medicine, Innovative Diagnosis, Molecular Imaging and Digital Health eCORE, Dr Eva Baldrich spoke with a presentation on the use of synthetic red cells as a tool for monitoring and controlling the global flu pandemic. Dr José Mª Lizcano, representing the Cancer eCORE, then presented the oncological drug ABTL0812 and its potential use in different ways to combat neuroblastoma, pancreatic cancer and other oncological processes. Representing the Brain, Mind and Behaviour eCORE, Dr Mar Hernàndez offered a presentation on the nine biomarkers to diagnose cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Dr Victor Puentes, on behalf of the Therapies and Advanced Interventions, Nanomedicine, Transplant, and Donation eCORE closed by announcing the discovery of a new nanoparticle with great therapeutic potential against oxidation and inflammation.

VHIO has explained two lines of research that they consider to be of enormous importance in oncological research. Dr Carolina Ortiz, a researcher in the VHIO Breast Cancer group, presented the new diagnostic technique that has made it possible to detect breast cancer in its early stages. The second contribution was by Dr Marcos Malumbres, Head of the Cell Cycle and Cancer group at VHIO, where he unveiled the latest advances in therapies with cell cycle inhibitors, techniques that he considers key in the fight against metastasis.

To conclude, the multidisciplinary nursing research group presented two of its research areas. The first led by nurse Rocío Tabernero, which has focussed on how to analyse and improve the quality of life of patients who have a tracheostomy. Then, nurse Zuleika González, who has carried out a systematic study of the experience and needs of women who had to interrupt a pregnancy on medical grounds, with the aim of improving healthcare in these cases.  

A new field of study to uncover a silent pathology

The 27th annual Vall d'Hebron conference began at one o'clock sharp, and this year it was hosted by Dr Valentín Fuster. A prestigious cardiologist with extensive experience, Dr Fuster currently combines his duties as General Director of the Carles III National Cardiovascular Research Centre (CNIC) in Madrid, Director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Physician-in-Chief of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of American College of Cardiology (JACC) and has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from thirty-five prestigious universities.

His lecture was about a change of perspective that he had fifteen years ago: instead of studying the disease, he decided to dedicate his research to understanding health and the factors that influence the onset and evolution of cardiovascular diseases. For example, through the use of imageonomics, a combination of state-of-the-art imaging and genetic techniques, it has been discovered that atherosclerosis can begin silently at a very early age. There are subclinical pictures in people between 20 and 40 years old that determine the evolution of the cardiac pathology that is detected when the person is 60 years old.  More data are still needed, but everything indicates that these factors are also key in the development of degenerative brain pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease. 

The factors that have been determined are: two mechanical: obesity and hypertension; two chemical: cholesterol and diabetes; and four behavioural: smoking, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and rest disorders. The doctor states that "if you start looking after yourself at 50 or 60, you've already missed the boat". For this reason, it promotes community care programmes for children so that they can acquire the necessary habits to prevent this type of illness, which is the leading cause of death in the world. 

The poster competition 

The poster competition was held throughout the day, this year there were almost 100 participants and the winners were revealed at the end of the day.

They were:

  • In the category of Non-Medical or Medical Healthcare Professionals:
    • First prize: Laia Ventura, Multidisciplinary Nursing Research Group at the VHIR
    •  Second prize: Creu Regne, Multidisciplinary Nursing Research Group at the VHIR
  • In the Residents category:
    • First prize: Alba Casellas. Vall d'Hebron University Hospital Obstetrics Department
    • Second prize: Kreina Sharela. Vall d'Hebron University Hospital Medical Oncology Department
  • In the Postdoctoral category:
    • First prize: Kimberley McGrail, Melanoma Biomedical Research
    • Second prize:  Khloud Elsharawy, Childhood Cancer and Haematological Diseases at the VHIR
  • In the Predoctoral category:
    • First prize: (Ex aequo) Marta Miera and Guillem Pons, both from VHIR's Childhood Cancer and Haematological Diseases Research Group.
    • Second prize: Iñigo González from the VHIO Anti-tumour Therapies Modelling Group
    • Third prize: Marina Lorente from the VHIR Neurodegenerative Diseases Group

Nearly 100 people have participated in the the poster competition 

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