Grants within the NWO Open Competition Domain Science – GROOT programme are intended for consortia in which research groups create added value through collaboration. In this first funding round of NWO Open Competition Domain Science – GROOT a total of 92 pre-proposals were submitted of which 20 proposals were awarded. One of the awarded projects was submitted by prof. Vincent Christoffels, head dept. of Medical Biology location AMC. Vincent Christoffels, together with researchers from Hubrecht Institute, Twente University and Leiden University, received 1.5 million euro to study and build a biological pacemaker from human stem cells.
Pacing the heart; studying the underlying principles of biological pacemakers
Many people suffer from a too slow heartbeat, because the natural pacemaker, the sinus node, does not function well enough. This project investigates the basic principles of the structure of a robust and regularly functioning sinus node. With the new knowledge we will build a pacemaker from human stem cells. We will study the development and function of the sinus node in fish and mouse. We will test the new insights using mathematical models. In the future, we hope to be able to repair defective sinus nodes using gene therapy. The cultured pacemakers made from stem cells will be useful to study slow heartbeat and to test new medicines.