Cardiac tissue engineering and regenerative therapies
Our group is interested in developing novel regenerative therapies for heart failure. Myocardial injury results in an irreversibly loss of myocytes. Our aim is to develop (stem-cell based) strategies to remuscularize the failing heart. We are particularly interested in understanding the mode of action of regenerative approaches to eventually improve clinical translation. For this we utilise cardiac tissue engineering and animal models and combine these with chemo- and optogenetic tools to dissect out mechanisms in cardiac regeneration.
1. Tissue engineering – Studying human cardiac pathophysiology in a dish
Combining tissue engineering and stem cell biology allows us to generate three-dimensional human tissue constructs (engineered heart tissue) with organotypic function that structurally resemble native myocardium. We use engineered heart tissue to simulate myocardial injury and study human (patho-) physiology in a dish to identify new drug targets. In this line of research, we are particularly interested in studying the interplay between cardiac work and cell cycle activity.
2. Cardiomyocyte transplantation – Remuscularizing the failing heart
Transplantation of pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes represents one regenerative therapeutic concept that aims at adding new myocytes to the injured heart. Currently, it is being evaluated in late preclinical trials and first clinical trial were initiated. Yet, even with first clinical trials underway hurdles to a successful clinical application of a cardiomyocyte transplantation approach remain. Our group is specifically focusing on two aspects: i) low cell engraftment and ii) engraftment-induced arrhythmias. We are currently working on strategies to improve engraftment and suppress engraftment-induced arrythmias after cardiomyocyte transplantation.