Heart Failure Research
Since the beginning of his career, Prof.dr. Stephane Heymans has been fascinated by the mechanisms underlying unexplained heart failure, dilated cardiomyopathies and acute myocarditis in particular. During his training as a cardiologist and scientist, he had several young patients that had severe unexplained heart dilated cardiomyopathy, or died suddenly due to myocarditis. This triggered his interest to unravel the poorly understood mechanisms for heart failure in general, and the susceptibility to viral myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy in particular. His clinical research studies the interaction of gene mutations, environmental factors (chemotherapy, alcohol, viruses, auto-immune, rhythm disturbances, diabetes) and and epigenetics in the development of (dilated) cardiomyopathies and myocarditis.
His group put forwards the matri-cellular proteins (glycoproteins and proteoglycans in the matrix) and non-coding RNAs as novel therapeutic targets to tackle inflammation and adverse remodelling in the heart. Accordingly, the primary aim of his program is to delineate the role of these immune and fibrosis modulating proteins and related non-coding RNAs, and find new molecular mechanisms and diagnostic markers for inflammation due to hypertensive and ischemic HF, as well as for primary inflammation due to viral myocarditis.
In 2006, he started a trans-disciplinary clinical program on viral and inflammatory cardiomyopathies, which brings together immunologists, microbiologists, pathologists and molecular cardiologists to study the role of inflammation, matrix remodelling and cardiomyocyte biology in viral myocarditis. A cohort of over 1000 patients with a long-term follow up starting in 2006, and a bio-bank including blood, DNA and cardiac samples, is the growing result of this work. As such, knowledge obtained in basic research is continuously translated to human pathology and vice versa, in order to relate pre-clinical findings to molecular, functional and structural data in human hearts.
In 2010, he became Professor of Cardiomyopathies, and presented his inaugural speech: "Europa, bindweefsel van mijn hart".
Together with other experts, he discusses about myocardits and dilated cardiomyopathy @ESC-TV,and @NHS (dutch).
Molecular and genetics expertise
The Center for Heart Failure Research is part of the Experimental Cardiology group based within the department of Cardiology and the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM) Besides this location at Maastricht University, we have a satellite lab at the Catholic University of Leuven, department of cardiovascular sciences (http://gbiomed.kuleuven.be)
With the molecular and genetics expertise of Prof Dr Blanche Schroen, new research avenues are explored in the field of non-coding RNAs, focusing on long non-coding RNA mechanisms during cardiac failure.Since the joining of the group by Dr Marc van Bilsen, the additional dimension of cardiac metabolism and its interaction with inflammation was added to our research interests.
Together, the expertise present in our lab accounts for a broad and in-depth knowledge on clinical, cellular and molecular processes in cardiovascular, immune and metabolic syndromes in a translational setting. Our lab is made up of an international team of PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and senior scientists. We have three highly skilled research technicians, who provide continuity to the lab and the technical basis for exciting discoveries. Our lab provides a supportive and challenging environment for both biomedical and medical students, who are co-supervised by a PhD candidate/postdoc and a senior scientist. The range of cardiovascular models at hand (link: “techniques”) and the supportive and collaborative environment of CARIM make sure that master students, PhD students and postdocs are embedded within a lab of possibilities.