Regenerative Medicine of Cardiovascular Diseases

(Deutsch: Lehrstuhl für Regenerative Medizin kardiovaskulärer Erkrankungen)

Recent advances in developmental and stem cell biology have paved the way for a wide spectrum of novel cardiovascular therapies, from the transplantation of stem cell-derived cells to the stimulation of endogenous regeneration processes. However, there are still many basic scientific questions to answer before these concepts can be successfully translated into patient treatment. Addressing such questions using state-of-the-art methods is the overarching goal of our group.

In the research projects outlined below, we combine 2D and 3D in vitro models based on human pluripotent stem cells with animal models such as the mouse and pig. Another important facet of our work is the use of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing for many applications including the generation of reporter cell lines and the design of novel gene therapy approaches.

The heart is the first organ to form and has a complex structure consisting of many specialized cell types populating the heart muscle, blood vessels, and connective tissue. During early cardiac development, cells must multiply rapidly but also specify, i.e. limit their developmental potential and determine into which cell type they will later differentiate. Our group investigates how different cardiovascular progenitor populations arise, specify, and differentiate, notably by dissecting lineage trajectories via single-cell transcriptomics and chromatin accessibility profiling. We are particularly interested in how these processes are disrupted in congenital heart defects and how we can use knowledge from development to develop new regenerative approaches in adults. 

One of our areas of interest is the role of transcription factors such as Isl1, which during heart development is expressed in so-called second heart field (SHF) cardiovascular progenitors that later mainly contribute to the right ventricle, the outflow tract and portions of the atria.

Whole-mount immunohistological staining of an Isl1Cre/+;R26mTmG/+ embryo at embryonic day 9.5 showing Isl1-Cre mediated mG (green) marking of SHF progenitors and their derivatives.

Immunohistological staining of a heart section from an Isl1Cre/+;R26mTmG/+ mouse at 4 weeks, showing Isl1-Cre mediated mG (green) marking of the right ventricle, parts of the left ventricle and both atria. Perilipin1 (magenta) marks adipocytes.

  • Prof. Dr. Alessandra Moretti
    Chair of Regenerative Medicine of Cardiovascular Diseases, group leader

  • Dr. Tatjana Dorn
    Senior scientist (developmental biology, lineage decision)

  • Dr. Monika Nowak-Imialek
    Veterinarian scientist (porcine expanded pluripotent stem cells & human-pig chimeras)

  • Dr. Anna Meier
    Postdoc (cardiac organoids and disease modeling)

  • Dr. Conor Bloxham
    Postdoc (cardiac organiods and single-cell genomics)

  • Dr. Veronika Fricke
    Postdoc (tissue engineering and cell therapy)

  • Dr. Gianluca Santamaria
    Postdoc (bioinformatic data analysis)

  • Dr. Alexander Göedel
    Physician scientist (bioinformatic data analysis)

  • Dr. Christine Schneider
    Physician scientist (3D tissue engineering & functional imaging)

  • Dorota Zawada
    PhD student (hiPSC-derived cardiovascular progenitors, single-cell genomics)

  • Sophie Zengerle
    PhD student (organoids and modeling of congenital heart disease) 

  • Sinem Sürmeli
    PhD student (CRISPR-based genome editing) 

  • Luis Felipe Monge Mora
    PhD student (cardiac organiods and imaging) 

  • Marco Crovella
    Technician (animals and histology)

  • Christina Scherb
    Technician (molecular biology)

  • Birgit Campbell
    Technician (cell culture and iPSC generation)