HeartRepair (heart failure and cardiac repair)

HeartRepair is a European research consortium (6th EU Research Framework Programme) that is aimed at investigating the fundamental issues of cardiac development. This consortium should improve understanding of cardiac-cell formation and repair, and advance the development of heart-tissue engineering and cell replacement.

Recent advances in the field of stem-cell replacement and rejuvenation therapies, particularly heart-cell regeneration, are rapidly gaining acceptance in the published work as a realistic future; however, the promises of this therapy cannot yet be met.
The main obstacle is insufficient fundamental knowledge about cardiac-cell formation and heart-disease development. HeartRepair, therefore, intends to unite sufficient scientific experts in Europe to address the basic questions.

For the first time in the field of European cardiac research, during a 4-year funding period (from 2006 to 2010), 27 research groups from eight European countries are working together, holding regular meetings, and discussing and sharing their knowledge. The scientific work of HeartRepair is divided into four “lines”:

Line 1: Which genes are involved in heart development?

This line deals with finding genes that have a crucial role in heart development. Nature provides us with two model systems: that of the normal developmental path and that of the abnormal or incorrect pathway leading to congenital heart defects. With use of patients who are clinically diagnosed with heart malformations, line 1 will use gene-finding techniques that will lead to the identification of genes and their protein products involved in heart development.

Line 2: How do progenitor cells differentiate into heart cells?

This approach examines the process of cardiac-cell programming, and the differentiation and diversification of heart cells. This line focuses on how genes are able to regulate cell development and how genes are activated or deactivated as the cell develops. Results will eventually allow us to control the direction of cell differentiation, which is crucial for the development of future therapeutic strategies.

Line 3: How do progenitor and cardiac cells communicate with each other?

Developing cells not only make decisions for their own fate by switching genes on and off, but they also communicate these decisions to other cells in their vicinity. Therefore, cells use specific signals that coordinate and drive cell differentiation. Line 3 tries to unravel these signals, which will be necessary for large-scale culturing of cells for cardiac repair. Moreover, correct understanding of how cells can be instructed via such signals to follow the differential path of the cardiac muscle cell, could allow us to recruit differentiated cells, such as cardiac fibroblasts, to assist in the repair process.

Line 4: Can heart cells rejuvenate?

Under this line, efforts are made to discover and harness the body’s own natural factors that assist in cellular repair and rejuvenation. The addition of such factors during cellular replacement might prove essential in avoiding repair complications such as cellular rejection and cell death. Furthermore, the application of cardiac rejuvenation techniques might be able to help with repair of damaged myocardium.

The Corience coordinator National Registry for Congenital Heart Defects is a partner in the HeartRepair consortium. Its task is to obtain and supply clinical information and DNA samples from patients with congenital heart defects in working line 1.

Find more information, please see: http://www.heartrepair.eu/

Last updated: 2008-09-24