What are the pro-arrhythmic mechanisms underlying inherited cardiac diseases leading to sudden cardiac death?
Can we use human pluripotent stem cells to model complex cardiac diseases and detect in vitro the phenotypic variability seen in patients?
Our laboratory focuses on the use of human pluripotent stem cells to create in vitro models of human inherited cardiac diseases, to develop drug screening platforms and to build multicellular cardiac microtissues
The human heart is a complex organ, where distinct and specialised cells are anatomically and functionally organised during the first stages of embryonic development. Beside cardiomyocytes, the non-cardiomyocyte population represents a large proportion of the cells. This includes the epicardium, the endocardium, cardiac fibroblasts, (para)sympathetic nerve cells, smooth muscle and endothelial cells, and immune cells. All of these cell types play critical roles contributing to both normal and pathological heart physiology.
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are remarkable in their capacity to differentiate into any cell type of the body. hiPSCs derived from patients with genetic cardiovascular disorders can be differentiated into cells of the heart and provide human models that can be used to understand pathophysiology of the disease, find new therapeutics and strategies for disease prevention.
Our lab has successfully applied hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes to study cardiac arrhythmia syndromes and used gene editing technology to reveal the causative effect of gene mutations. Our commitment is now to create advanced hiPSC-models for precision medicine in the context of lethal human heart disease. By combining exceptional expertise in stem cell, cardiac arrhythmia, drug development and tissue engineering we work towards building advanced hiPSC models to decipher cardiac disease with cellular and personalised accuracy.
- PhD: CRIBI Biotechnology Center, University of Padova, Italy (2003-2006)
- Postdoc: CRIBI Biotechnology Center, University of Padova, Italy (2006-2008)
- Postdoc: Cardiology Division, Klinikum Rechts der Isar, Technical University of Munich, Germany (2008-2010)
- Senior research fellow and Marie Curie fellow: Dept. of Anatomy and Embryology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands (2010-2016)
- Assistant Professor and Group Leader: Dept. of Anatomy and Embryology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands (since 2016)
- Assistant Professor: Dept. of Biology, University of Padova, Italy (since 2019)
- Principal Investigator: Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine, Padova, Italy (since 2019)
- 2005 & 2006 – EMBO fellowships for EMBO Practical Courses
- 2010 – Young Investigator Award Competition, 8th Dutch-German Joint Meeting of the Molecular Cardiology Working Groups, The Netherlands
- 2012 – EU FP7 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for Career Development
- 2016 – FEBS Anniversary Prize for outstanding achievements in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology