Cardio Angio Science: Junior Research Groups

The Ploidy and Organ Physiology Laboratory aims to understand how ploidy influences cell and organ function. It currently focusses on cardiomyocytes – the contractile unit of the heart. Unlike regenerative organisms like zebrafish, mammalian cardiomyocytes become polyploid after birth, resulting in cell cycle exit and the loss of regenerative capacity of the heart. Using a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches, the group wants to elucidate the regulatory mechanisms (especially intercellular and cell-ECM interactions) and the functional significance of cardiomyocyte polyploidy. Ultimately, this knowledge should be applied to promote cardiac repair and regeneration in the adult mammalian heart.

Group Leader: Dr. Chi-Chung Wu, European Center for Angioscience, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University

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Image: A primary rat cardiomyocyte going through different phases of mitosis (left to right: prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase). Tubulin and DNA are stained in green and magenta, respectively. Picture by Dr. Chi-chung Wu.

The RNA Splicing in Cardiac Disease lab studies RNA splicing processes as well as the functional effects of missplicing and splice variants in the heart, and uses new insights in these processes to develop novel therapeutic approaches for cardiac disease. Recent advances in next-generation sequencing techniques and studies on pivotal cardiac splicing factors have revealed the importance and functional relevance of splicing in the heart. For example, mutations in the splicing factor RBM20 lead to an arrhythmogenic dilated cardiomyopathy. Currently, the group focuses on 3 main topics; 1) the molecular mechanisms underlying RBM20 cardiomyopathy, 2) the role of minor splicing in the heart, and 3) the identification and characterization of novel (master) splicing regulators in the heart. 

Group Leader: Dr. Maarten van den Hoogenhof, Institute of Experimental Cardiology, Heidelberg University Clinic, Heidelberg

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Cardiovascular disease accounts for a large proportion of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and there remains a pressing need to promote cardiac repair following myocardial injury. The Mechanisms of Cardiac Regeneration and Repair Lab uses a combination of in vivo, in vitro, and -OMICS approaches to understand molecular mechanisms of cardiomyocyte regeneration in zebrafish, a lower vertebrate species that is capable of regenerating lost cardiac cell types following injury. The research group is specifically interested in transcriptional and epigenetic networks involved in the regeneration process, and how intercellular communication contributes to cardiomyocyte replenishment. Ultimately, the goal is to use this knowledge to develop therapeutic strategies to promote cardiac repair in the adult mammalian heart.

Group Leader: Dr. rer. nat. Arica Beisaw, Institute of Experimental Cardiology, Heidelberg University

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Blood vessels supply nutrients and oxygen to maintain organ function and have recently been described to impart instructive cues to maintain a steady-state in healthy adults. Meanwhile, they dynamically evolve to facilitate diseases such as cancer and inflammation. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the laboratory of AngioRhythms focuses on – (i) elucidating organotypic vascular responsiveness to tumor progression and metastasis and (ii) interrogating circadian vascular signatures mediating interorgan communications. To this end, the laboratory has established an inversed day/night rhythm animal facility and employs state-of-the-art single-cell multiomics to map instructive vascular cues, thereby improving our limited fundamental knowledge of cellular interactions and identifying targets for futuristic vascular-targeting therapy for pathological conditions.

Group Leader: Dr. Mahak Singhal, European Center for Angioscience, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University

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