Blanche Schroen is professor of Experimental Cardiology at the Cardiology department. She obtained her masters degree in Biological Health Sciences from Maastricht University in 2002. Her PhD (2002-2006) at Maastricht University, department of Cardiology, aimed at finding molecular determinants of heart failure-susceptibility using genomics techniques. To follow-up on this work, she became a post-doctoral fellow on cardiac genetical genomics at Imperial College London, in the renowned lab of Profs Timothy Aitman and Stuart Cook, with the support of an NWO Rubicon grant.
In 2008, she returned to the department of Cardiology at Maastricht University, and started her current research on the role of non-coding RNAs as susceptibility factors for the development of heart failure of diverse etiologies, including pressure overload- and virus- induced heart failure. A veni grant allowed a continuation of the search for novel non-coding RNAs linked to cardiac hypertrophic traits. In addition, she decided to have a closer look at the role of immune cells in the development of heart failure, based on the observation that immune cells invade the heart not only during severe pathogenic insults such as a myocardial infarction, but also upon mild pressure overload. Indeed, the small non-coding RNA microRNA-155 turned out to be a susceptibility factor for viral myocarditis, as well as a crucial inflammatory contributor to the development of cardiac hypertrophy and failure via the early invasion of immune cells during pressure overload. This work established that immune activation plays an early role in heart failure development and is a therapeutic target.
At present, the role of small non-coding RNAs in cardiac pathology is well established, and knowledge on roles of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in the heart is emerging. From 2012 on, she studies lncRNAs for their roles in immune activation and heart failure development with support of NWO vidi and NHS Dekker grants. This work builds further on the fundaments that make her areas of expertise, including molecular biology of non-coding RNAs, pathophysiological mechanisms in heart failure, genetics, cardiac histology and (inflammatory) cell biology. In addition, she has liaised with the cardiologist Dr Vanessa van Empel to bring her research closer to the patient. The translational team, initially supported by a grant from the Health Foundation Limburg, recently received essential support from CVON. Her research group within the Experimental Cardiology lab comprises of 4 biological and one medical PhD student, and 2 shared research technicians.