Current studies

Prediction of cardiotoxicity after chemotherapy.

Within the Horizon 2020 Hecatos project lead by Maastricht's Prof.dr. Jos Kleinjans, we look for predictive biomarkers in patients with acute or late cardiotoxicity due to chemotherapy. This is the project of drs. Jort Merken.


The EARLY-HFPEF project aims for the early detection of preclinical diastolic dysfunction (pDD) when only risk factors and no symptoms of heart failure (HF) are present. As pDD over time may progress to symptomatic heart failure (HF) with preserved ejection fraction (HFPEF) – also called diastolic heart failure - its early detection is crucial for immediate treatment. Our involvement in clinical trials of pDD, our growing pDD and HFPEF cohorts in Maastricht and Amsterdam, and our direct access to European cohorts with over 1,900 selected pDD patients, over 1,500 HFPEF patients and over 2,500 controls, biosamples and related clinical follow up data, puts us in the unique position to discover and validate biomarkers for pDD, stratify those patients, and go for early treatment before HFPEF develops.


Within the FP7 consortium HOMAGE (Heart Failure ‘Omics in the Ageing), we are in search for novel ‘omics-identified biomarkers of processes leading to heart failure, i.e. inflammation and fibrosis, in an aged population. Our task is to assemble cohorts from all over the world in the Biobank Maastricht, collaborate with the industrial partners to run a selected set of biomarkers, and eventually evaluate the outcomes using mathematical modelling techniques.

Targeting cardiac fibrosis for heart failure treatment: FIBROTARGETS FP7 consortium.

Based upon in vitro screens and in vivo validation studies in viral, hypertensive and ischemic heart disease, we have selected  candidate matricellular proteins to be studied as novel therapeutic and imaging targets for adverse fibrosis in failing hearts. Main sub-studies are the cross-talk with TGF-β pathway,  miRNA modulation,  regulation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and the cross-talk between immune cells and fibroblasts.

Non-coding RNA mechanisms in heart failure and aging: CVON ARENA consortium.

This consortium funded by the Netherlands Heart Foundation brings together Dutch scientists working on non-coding RNA mechanisms in heart failure. ARENA aims to mine the wealth of non-coding RNA mechanisms to enable the development of next generation RNA based diagnostics and therapeutics. As such, ARENA addresses the clinical added value of newly identified RNA-based mechanisms and uses the unique experimental models available from the consortium to mine the wealth of non-coding RNAs in (age-related) heart failure.

Long non-coding RNAs in immune regulation and heart failure (Blanche Schroen).

Very recently, the class of long non-coding RNAs gained growing attention in the scientific community, because of the increasing awareness that these non-conserved RNA molecules make the genetic composition of the human genome different from that of lower organisms. We selected candidates that are expressed by cardiac and/or immune cells and are investigating their role in heart failure. Blanche Schroen recently obtained a vidi grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to conduct this research.

Role of microRNAs in the crosstalk between immune cells and organ systems driving cardiovascular disease.

We have a selection of candidate microRNAs and lncRNAs with a role in immune cell activation, that we characterize in detail for their molecular and cellular function. We hypothesize that, in pathological conditions like hypertension and diabetes that involve multiple organ systems including heart, liver and adipose tissue, non-coding RNAs in immune cells regulate the communication between these organ systems.