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Prof. Nadia Rosenthal, Head of EMBL-Monterotondo (near Rome, Italy), and international collaborators have been awarded a US$6 million grant for cardiovascular research. The scientists will investigate the ability of heart muscle to repair itself – after being damaged by a heart attack, for example – and to regain function.

Prof. Rosenthal has previously shown that when a muscle is injured, stem cells can help the tissue rebuild. This team of researchers will build on her findings and use the collective expertise of the group, to develop and study human cells with an enhanced potential for cardiac regeneration.

Along with Prof. Rosenthal, Italian researcher Giulio Cossu (San Raffaele Biomedical Park of Rome, Italy) brings extensive experience to the project. He recently discovered a multipotent cell (a cell which can give rise to a wide range of other types of cells) which has been successfully used in cell-based therapies. From Germany, scientists Stefanie Dimmeler and Andreas Zeiher (Goethe University, Frankfurt) have pioneered human trials with progenitor cells for cardiac repair. Progenitor cells can produce specialized cells to replace those that have died, and may be a key to determining how heart muscle repairs itself.

These European researchers will collaborate closely with American researchers at the Centre for Cardiovascular Development, Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas) – Michael Schneider, who isolated a rare and unanticipated population of adult cardiac progenitor cells, and Bob Schwartz, who has made great advances in the understanding of cardiac gene expression.

Prof. Rosenthal predicts that the team will make major advancements. “We’ve been given a unique opportunity to share the expertise, facilities, models and knowledge of this superb group of scientists.” And although many of these scientists already collaborate in pairs, she emphasizes that “as a team we will be able to move much faster towards applying our collective understanding of adult progenitor cell biology to effective human cardiac repair.”

The five-year grant is from the Fondation Leducq, a non-profit foundation committed to improving health through international efforts to combat cardio-vascular disease. This project is one of only four applications funded through the foundation’s Transatlantic Network of Excellence, specifically intended to bridge the sciences in cardiovascular research between Europe and the United States.

Trista Dawson | alfa
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