Dr Linda van Laake is assistant professor and specialist registrar in Cardiology at the University Medical Center Utrecht and Hubrecht Institute. She carries out both clinical duties and scientific research into cardiac stem cells, aimed at finding treatments and ideally cures for heart failure. Heart failure is caused by cardiac muscle cells failing to work properly. These cells are not replaced (the way that skin cells are) which just results in scar tissue being created. Van Laake is attempting to supplement the lack of cardiac muscle cells with new cardiac muscle cells made from stem cells.
She is also the first researcher in the world to take the 24-hour cycle into account as part of this. The way that the heart and blood vessels work alters dramatically throughout the night-day cycle. Even individual cardiac muscle cells in a Petri dish will maintain a 24-hour rhythm. Dr van Laake is using stem cells to analyse how night-day rhythms develop in cardiac muscle cells and how they influence recovery following a cardiac arrest.
“The university serves as a central hub for various research areas and centres"
Van Laake also supervises students. As a doctor, scientist and supervisor, she provides a bridge between the lab and clinical work and will continue to do so as her expertise is picked up by young researchers and applied to other kinds of research. Based in Utrecht, Van Laake is literally and figuratively based at the centre of the Netherlands in terms of cardiovascular research. She hopes that working with a range of research centres will lead to the discovery of a permanent cure for people with cardiovascular disease.