2 million euros to identify 'culprit' and 'victim' cells in cardiac diseases using 3D mini hearts

9 December 2020• NEWSITEM

LUMC scientist Milena Bellin receives 2 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC). With this Consolidator grant she will investigate human cardiac diseases using mini hearts made from stem cells. The aim is to improve this model so that it can be used to determine the cause of complex heart diseases. And ultimately help in the development of new therapies.  

Using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC), researchers can create 3D mini hearts in the lab. "This technique can revolutionise the way we study cardiac diseases, but there are still many cell types missing in the model," says Milena Bellin, group leader at the Department of Anatomy and Embryology.

Establishing the cause

Recently, Bellin and colleagues have developed a 3D mini heart consisting of different cell types. With this model, they could establish that stromal cells of the heart contribute to problems of the rhythm and sudden death of patients with the rare cardiac disease called arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy." However, the application of these models in precision medicine still needs to be proven," says Bellin.

Room for improvement

"Above all, the mapping of mechanisms that cause cardiac disease and the development of new treatment strategies using these mini hearts can be improved," says Bellin. With the ERC grant Bellin will develop a more complete model by adding nerves and cells of the immune system to the mini hearts. This will allow her to investigate many aspects of different cardiac diseases, with the ultimate goal of developing new treatments. Bellin chooses a multidisciplinary approach in which she will combine different techniques, from stem cell technology to biophysical assays and tissue engineering.

Among other things, she will investigate whether the model can demonstrate the role of specific cell types in the development of cardiac disease. In addition, she will test two therapeutic strategies, including gene therapy.

ERC grants

The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded each year to scientists who have outstanding scientific achievements up to 12 years after their PhD and who have written an excellent proposal. Do you want to know more about the ERC grant? Have a look at the ERC website.

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