Cardiovascular Tissue Regeneration

ESR project


Title of project

(Re-) Activating endogenous cardiac regeneration - Assessing clinical applicability of FSTL1 as a therapeutic for ischemic heart disease

We offered

A 4-year PhD student position in the interdisciplinary area of regenerative medicine. The project will focus on an endogenous cardiogenic factor FSTL1 and it’s potential for clinical application to treat ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure.


Research within the UMC Utrecht concentrates on specific focus areas including Circulatory Health and Regenerative Medicine. The Department of Cardiology has a strong record of research within these focus areas, investigating and developing novel treatment options for cardiovascular disease using cell based and compound driven approaches, state-of-the-art imaging and biomaterials in relevant pre-clinical models.


Chronic heart failure as a result of ischemic heart disease is a growing epidemic burden with no widely available treatment. The proposed project explores the use of the epicardial  cardiogenic factor Follistatin-like 1 (FSTL1) to induce regenerative effects in a novel approach to treat chronic heart failure.

Firstly, we will assess cardioprotective and regenerative effects of FSTL1 using human induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes to be able to validate reported effects in an in vitro model of ischemia-reperfusion damage and potentially unravel underlying mechanistic pathways. Secondly, we will validate the therapeutic potential of FSTL1 in a large animal model of chronic heart failure using a guided, minimally invasive delivery route. Thirdly, all necessary procedures and requirements for translation of the preclinical findings to a first-in-man trial will be addressed, including GMP production and regulatory affairs.

With this project, we aim to eventually translate basic research findings into efficient new cures for frequent and serious heart diseases currently treated mainly with symptom relieving therapies.

Contact person & more information

Dr. Klaus Neef


This project is part of RESCUE, a multidisciplinary, intersectoral and interdisciplinary PhD training programme in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells organised by UMC Utrecht (coordinator) and Utrecht University. RESCUE is partly funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020's Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND scheme. There are specific requirements with regards to English language and mobility for candidates who would like to take part in this programme. More information.