Cardiovascular diseases including congenital heart defects are the leading cause of mortality. Cardiac diseases result in myocyte deficiency that ultimately leads to congestive heart failure. Despite significant advances, conventional treatments do not correct the defects in myocyte numbers and the prognosis of congestive heart failure remains poor. For this reason, the replacement of lost cardiomyocytes is a primary target of regenerative medicine research.
Although recent studies have uncovered the remarkable regenerative capacity of the newborn mammalian heart, this regenerative potential is lost shortly after birth, strongly supporting the hypothesis that a detailed understanding of developmental mechanisms is essential to identify targets for cardiac repair or regeneration in congenital and acquired heart diseases. Triggering cell cycle re-entry of existing cardiomyocytes together with the stimulation of multipotent cardiac progenitor cells currently represent the most promising approaches for cardiac regeneration over the coming years.
Using a combination of state of the art molecular, developmental, physiological and transgenic approaches our group aims to enhance our knowledge of cardiac development and to contribute to a greater understanding of regulatory steps controlling cardiomyocyte proliferation and progenitor cell fate. Identifying how these process are regulated is thus of crucial importance in regenerative medicine and will inform future cardiac repair strategies.