Our lab focusses on induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. We aim to optimize transplantation of micro-tissues into the myocardium after myocardial infarction. Micro-tissues refer to aggregates of organotypic cells with defined size and cellular composition. Major obstacles to be solved include the occurrence of cardiac arrhythmia after cell transplantation into the diseased myocardium, the low efficiency of cardiomyocyte engraftment and the technological deficits in cell preparation. Current projects of the group address questions of intramyocardial cell engraftment; improved bioreactor technologies and 3D culture models are being developed. Recently, we have made substantial progress in the generation of cardiac organoids from human induced pluripotent stem cells and expand our activity in the field of organoids research. Together with our partner laboratory at the Department for Physical Chemistry (Prof. Dr. Annette Schmidt) we investigate novel biomaterials for cell and organoid culture as well for bioreactor-based stem cell culture.
Today it remains unclear which strategies will result in a stem cell-based therapy of cardiac diseases in the future and we follow additional strategies beside direct cell transplantation. We are interested in developing artificial cardiac tissues that are generated from pluripotent stem cell derived cells. In this respect, formation of artificial vessel structures to provide oxygen and nutrients to the artificial myocardium is part of ongoing research activities. Finally, we are addressing mechanism of cardiac fibrosis with focus on the role of cardiomyocytes in cardiac matrix homeostasis. In this respect our advanced human cardiac organoids serve as model system for human cardiac physiology and pathophysiology in vitro.
Cardiovascular diseases are among the major causes of death in the western hemisphere. Stem cell based technologies will pave the way towards novel therapies of cardiac diseases such as cardiac infarction. Our research strategy will generate knowledge in the field of artificial tissues and organs for future therapies in vivo as well as novel test systems for pharmaceuticals in vitro.