Partnerships in Congenital Heart Disease in Africa

Protea: A North-South Partnership in Congenital Heart Disease (CHD)
Funder: Medical Research Council Foundation (UK)

This collaborative project between The University of Manchester (UoM) and University of Cape Town (UCT) seeks to address the lack of basic information about Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) in Africa, and whether the rate at which CHD occurs is the same in African populations as in Western populations, and whether the range of CHD conditions encountered is similar. The project aims to establish a sustainable CHD research infrastructure at UCT, and to create a model that could be applied in other South African centres and collaborating African countries.

Adult and paediatric patients who attend the UCT CHD clinics are invited to participate in and contribute to a comprehensive clinical database containing information about both themselves and their families. Blood or saliva samples are requested to investigate the role of inherited factors (genes) in causing CHD. The target enrolment is 1200 patients in the two-year period of the grant.

The UK partner group at The UoM guides the genetic investigation of African-derived genes already shown to be important in Western populations. If this foundation project shows that it is feasible to enrol and conduct genetic studies in African CHD patients, future experiments will be designed and conducted to search for particularly African genetic causes of CHD. Studies modelling the abnormal blood flow that occurs in CHD patients using powerful computers will also be carried out to see if patterns that are useful in predicting outcomes for patients can be identified.

The data and resources developed in this project will help African researchers define the most important and feasible research topics for future study in the population they serve. The research emerging from this registry will provide clear signposts on steps that can be taken to address the extremely different outcomes of CHD, which is now a highly treatable condition, between Western and African countries.