Gert Jan Veenstra, theme Cancer development and immune defense, and Robert Passier of the University of Twente, received a ZonMw Top grant of € 675,000 for a project entitled: ldentification of molecular regulatory pathways for specification and maturation of human cardiac subtypes. In this project the researchers will collaborate with medical centres in Leiden (LUMC) and Amsterdam (AMC, VUmc).Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the western world. Ten years ago it became possible to reprogram patient cells (for example cells obtained from skin or blood) to human induced pluripotent stem cells (hPSC). These cells can be differentiated into a range of somatic cell types, including cardiomyocytes. However these cells have a variety of cardiac identities that are more similar to fetal than to adult heart muscle cells. In the project funded by ZonMw the objective is to understand how to direct heart cells to the correct cardiac identity and how to let them mature to adult cardiomyocytes.
For the first time the genetic and molecular mechanisms that are important for differentiation and maturation of cardiomyocyte subtypes will be studied extensively. The project is expected to make an important contribution to the understanding, modeling and treatment of heart disease.
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