Heart group studies cardiomyocytes differentiated from stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells can serve as a cell and tissue model in research on heart development and function, as well as in the development and safety tests of drugs. Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology where stem cells are generated by reprogramming somatic cells into a pluripotent state provides many new possibilities to stem cell research. iPSCs can be differentiated into the desired cell type, retaining the original genotype. With this technology it is possible to create patient specific stem cell lines and cardiomyocytes which provide a way to model and study the pathophysiology of various disorders in human cells. Therefore iPSC technology offers also a promising and safe platform to screen and optimize patient specific drug therapy.
The main aim of heart group is to differentiate functional cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells and study different genetic heart diseases with the help of iPSC technology. Research focuses also on the development of iPSC lines and optimizing the differentiation methods and growth environment of cardiomyocytes. This includes studying the effects of both biochemical and physical factors on the differentiation of cardiomyocytes, their growth, maturation and characteristics. The heart group aims to ascertain the mechanisms, signaling pathways and genes underlying differentiation in order to be able to differentiate cardiomyocytes in culture. The group also conducts research with biomaterials suitable for the cultivation of cardiomycoytes and develops different ways to characterize the functionality of the cardiomyocytes, for example to study the drug responses. The research group engages actively in co-operation with experts in various fields, including engineers, experts in biomaterials, electrophysiologists, cell model experts and clinicians.
Group leader is MD, PhD, Docent, Cardiologist, Katriina Aalto-Setälä.