(Former) Lab Members Publish Journal Club Article in J Physiol

Recently, Henry Sutanto (former PhD student), Melania Buonocunto (current PhD student), and Stefan Meier (current PhD student) collaborated on a journal club article about the role of background calcium influx on heart failure-associated calcium waves, published by Hutchings et al. in The Journal of Physiology. This journal club article is now available on The Journal of Physiology website and represents the first publication of Melania and Stefan. You can read the journal club article here.

Adaïa joins the team

Adaïa Grundland, originally from Belgium, is a 20 year old student in her third year bachelor at Maastricht University in the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence program. She has always been interested by the biomedical field and would love to link her AI knowledge with medical content. For this means, she entered the team at CARIM in order to work on her bachelor thesis, in which she will investigate temperature-dependent regulation of ion channels. ​

New paper: Detecting arrhythmogenic electrical interactions predisposing to sudden cardiac death

We are honored to have participated in a recent must-read publication by Dr. Matthijs Cluitmans published in Science Translational Medicine. In this work, Matthijs provided new insights into the determinants of ventricular tachyarrhythmias (VT/VF) in structurally normal hearts. In particular, explanted heart studies combined with computational modeling and electrocardiographic imaging of survivors of idiopathic VF revealed that the steepness of repolarization time gradients, the size of different repolarization regions, and the timing and location of premature beats relative to the gradients contribute to idiopathic VF development. These exciting new insights may have important implications for risk assessment and future treatment of patients at risk for VT/VF and sudden cardiac death.

Reference: Cluitmans MJM, Bear LR, Nguyên UC, van Rees B, Stoks J, Ter Bekke RMA, Mihl C, Heijman J, Lau KD, Vigmond E, Bayer J, Belterman CNW, Abell E, Labrousse L, Rogier J, Bernus O, Haïssaguerre M, Hassink RJ, Dubois R, Coronel R, Volders PGA. Noninvasive detection of spatiotemporal activation-repolarization interactions that prime idiopathic ventricular fibrillation. Sci Transl Med. 2021 Nov 17;13(620):eabi9317. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abi9317.

New Team Members!

On September 1st, 2021, two new PhD students joined the team. We wish them both lots of success!

Minsi Cai studied medicine at Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, China (Bachelor of Clinical Medicine) and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, China (Master of Science, Internal Cardiovascular Medicine: Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing). During his PhD he will develop novel patient-level models for early detection and improved management of atrial fibrillation and its associated adverse outcomes in a project co-funded by the CARIM School for Cardiovascular Diseases.

Stefan Meier studied Health Sciences (Bachelor of Science) and Systems Biology (Master of Science) at Maastricht University. During his PhD, Stefan will use mechanistic computational models to investigate the impact of ion-channel trafficking on cardiac arrhythmogenesis as part of an NWO/ZonMw Vidi project.

Stefan Meier
Minsi Cai

Publication Milestone

It has been a very busy and productive period in terms of publications. This week, the 99th and 100th papers co-authored by the lab have been listed on PubMed, including a detailed review on the potential role of computational modeling in improving AF management, which was accepted as part of the upcoming spotlight issue on AF!

A quick analysis revealed that these 100 papers were published in 46 different journals, including Circ Res (8 publications), Europace (7 publications), J Mol Cell Cardiol (7 publications), Cardiovasc Res (5 publications) and Circulation (4 publications).

We will try to update the publications page as soon as possible!

3 new students join the team

Ioanna Tzavara and Nassim Haji

This month, 3 new students have started their research projects in the team. Ioanna Tzavara and Nassim Haji are working on their final research internship for the Bachelor in Biomedical Sciences program. Ioanna is originally from Greece and during her Bachelor has developed an interest in systems biology, pharmacology, development and aging, as well as diseases and their treatment. Nassim has a long-standing interest in disease and treatment. He aims to pursue a Master’s degree in the fields of Biology of Diseases with a special interest in Cardiovascular Research after completing his Bachelor thesis. Both Ioanna and Nassim will be working on patient-level models of AF, addressing parts of the VIRTUAL-AF project.

Johan van Koll

Finally, Johan van Koll, a 4th year medicine student at Maastricht University will join for his scientific research internship (WESP), focusing on improved diagnosis of patients presenting with acute chest pain. Johan previously completed the Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences, also at Maastricht University. After his bachelor’s thesis at the ICU of MUMC+, he was involved in a research project regarding the mechanical ventilation of COVID-19 patients.

Looking for a new PhD Student!

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate to join a multidisciplinary team developing patient-level models for simulating virtual clinical trials in patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder! In this 4-year project, the PhD-candidate will join an interdisciplinary research team involving clinicians and scientists from the Depts of Cardiology, Physiology and Biochemistry at the CARIM School for Cardiovascular Diseases, Maastricht University aiming to develop a highly innovative virtual-patient model that can simulate the clinical state (including the absence or presence of AF) during the entire lifetime of a cohort of thousands of virtual patients with minute-level resolution.

The ideal candidate has successfully completed a master’s degree (or equivalent) in technical medicine, medical engineering, medicine, biomedical engineering or related disciplines. He/she has a strong intrinsic motivation to commit to an interdisciplinary 4 year PhD-program integrating computational approaches and complex clinical data. He/she also has a demonstrable interest in cardiovascular research, and an analytical mindset. Advanced knowledge of scientific English and excellent communication skills are required. Previous experience with programming and/or computational modeling, experience with clinical trials, or prior research experience in (cardiovascular) epidemiology or atrial fibrillation is considered a plus.

Fore more information, and to apply, see the advert on AcademicTransfer: https://www.academictransfer.com/en/297262/phd-student-promovendus-in-computational-modeling-of-atrial-fibrillation-fhmlschool-for-cardiovascular-diseasescarim-cardiology/

Henry Sutanto obtains PhD cum laude

On January 15th, Henry Sutanto successfully defended his PhD project ‘Integrative Computational Modeling of Calcium Handling and Cardiac Arrhythmias’, which was supervised by Dr. Jordi Heijman, Prof. Paul Volders and Prof. Harry Crijns. After a 15-min talk aimed at the general public, Henry defended his work against a degree committee consisting of Prof. Frits Prinzen, Prof. Ralf Peeters, and Dr. Dominik Linz (Maastricht University), as well as Prof. Antonio Zaza (Milan, Italy), Prof. Stefano Severi (Bologna, Italy), and Dr. Katherine Dibb (Manchester, UK). Henry received the distinction ‘cum laude’. This distinction is very rare in the Netherlands. Among other things, it requires that the work: “contains a thorough and exhaustive analysis of a particular scientific problem”, “places that analysis (and thereby the problem) in a wider theoretical context” and “makes a substantial contribution to the academic debate leading to new points of view or insights”. It requires the unanimous approval of the assessment committee, as well as that of two additional external experts selected by the university. We congratulate Henry with this incredible achievement!

Jordi Heijman receives NWO/ZonMW Vidi Grant

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded a prestigious Vidi grant worth 800,000 euros to Dr. Jordi Heijman. Dr. Heijman is one of three Vidi laureates from Maastricht University in 2020 (out of a total of 81 awardees selected from 503 eligible proposals) with a proposal entitled ‘Time traveling to treat heart rhythm disorders’.

Heart rhythm disorders remain a major cause of death. To identify improved therapies, Dr. Heijman and his team will use advanced computer models to determine the mechanisms through which heart rhythm disorders become more stable over time, a process involving changes in numerous components of the heart’s electrical system occurring over milliseconds to days. Back in 2015, Dr. Heijman already received a NWO Veni grant for his research.

The European Working Group on Cardiac Cellular Electrophysiology

During this year’s elections of the European Working Group on Cardiac Cellular Electrophysiology (EWGCCE), Dr. Jordi Heijman has been elected as incoming chair-elect of the working group. Jordi was elected as nucleus member of EWGCCE in June 2018 and has been the working group’s secretary since October 2018. He is currently also co-chairing a position paper on “Relevance, Opportunities and Limitations of Experimental Models for Cardiac Electrophysiology Research” together with Prof. Katja Odening from Bern. Jordi has started his position as chair-elect and treasurer of the EWGCCE in September of this year, working closely together with the current chairperson, Prof. Ana Maria Gomez from Paris. He will become chairman of the EWGCCE for the 2022-2024 term. As chairman, Jordi aims to strengthen interdisciplinary collaborations and education in cardiac cellular electrophysiology, among other things.

Jordi also contributed to a short overview of the EWGCCE’s history and focus that was published in the Cardiopulse supplement of the European Heart Journal earlier this month:

Gómez AM, Heijman J, Remme CA. The ESC Working Group Cardiac Cellular Electrophysiology. Eur Heart J. 2020 Oct 10:ehaa646. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa646. Epub ahead of print.