The groups of Eva van Rooij, Wouter de Laat and Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute each participate in a Transnational Network of Excellence (TNE) awarded by the Fondation Leducq.
Fondation Leducq is a French non-profit health research foundation, the mission of which is to improve human health through international efforts to combat cardiovascular disease. To this end Fondation Leducq has created the Transatlantic Networks of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research Program, which is designed to promote collaborative research involving centers in North America and Europe in the areas of cardiovascular and neurovascular disease. A maximum of 4 networks are awarded each year.
The networks are:
Programming the failing heart to a regenerative state (van Rooij group)
Given the global burden of heart disease and its increasing prevalence in aging populations, the development of strategies to regenerate the human heart is among the most important challenges facing human health. While the heart is notoriously resistant to regeneration, considerable evidence from investigators in this Network and others suggests that the fundamental biology of the myocardium provides multiple therapeutic opportunities for cardiac regeneration. Our Network will collaboratively develop strategies to enhance cardiac repair by the reprogramming of cells into regenerative cardiomyocytes or by enhancing cardiomyocyte proliferation and regeneration. We have assembled a team with experience in cardiovascular molecular biology and therapeutic development in hopes we will provide new therapeutic approaches with applications in diverse cardiac disorders.
Deciphering the genomic topology of atrial fibrillation (de Laat group)
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, affecting more than 33 million individuals throughout the world and accounting for one-fourth of all strokes. Despite the profound socio-economic cost of AF, we continue to have only a limited understanding of AF pathophysiological mechanisms; consequently, medical and interventional therapies for AF are not very effective. AF is highly heritable and recent population-based studies have identified a series of genetic loci suspected to cause AF. In this project, clinical and fundamental research groups from the US and Europe will join forces to characterize how these genes contribute to AF and lay a foundation for improved therapeutic strategies. Novel technologies developed at the Hubrecht Institute and its spin-off company Cergentis that uniquely link sequence composition to the activity of genes in patients will be essential to reach these goals.
Molecular genetics, pathogenesis and protein-replacement therapy in arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (Clevers group)
One of the major causes of Sudden Cardiac Death is Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy, a heritable disease of which the genetic and molecular cause is unknown and no treatment exists. The Leducq consortium that includes the lab of Hans Clevers consists of several of the leading international scientists and medics in the field of AC who will together study both the cause as well as possible therapeutic intervention for AC. The role of the group of Hans Clevers is the regulation of (stem) cells that underlie the transformation or replacement of cardiac myocytes to fibro-adipocytes in the heart.
The Hubrecht Institute is a research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Presently there are 20 research groups with a total of about 200 employees. In addition to a highly interactive and international scientific environment, excellent research facilities are available for imaging and functional genomics. Moreover, several model organisms are present, including C. elegans, zebrafish and mice. The institute is situated in Utrecht at the university centre De Uithof. The Hubrecht Institute is affiliated with the University Medical Center Utrecht and has close connections with Utrecht University, e.g. in the Graduate School Cancer Genomics and Development Biology.