Major research areas of the HRCG

Therapeutic procedures of heart failure using stem cells

The HRCG carries out investigations with pluripotent stem cells, that is a spermatogonial stem cell first described already in 2006 as a pluripotent stem cell at the Heart Center of the UMG (Guan et al. Nature 2006). We also conduct research on stem cells derived from ova identified by Prof. Dr. Wolfram-Hubertus Zimmermann (Dept. of Pharmacology at the UMG) as well as on stem cells which can be extracted from human skin cells, blood cells, or hair cells (induced pluripotent stem cells). These stem cells are used to engineer tissues which may strengthen the diseased heart when applied to it. Furthermore we develop procedures which allow the direct introduction of cells into the heart, and also perform immunological investigations to reliably prevent the stem cells of being rejected or of forming a tumor.

Treatment of diseased cardiac valves by catheterization

Cardiologists and heart surgeons closely cooperate in this discipline, which comprises for instance the implantation of aortic valves, and the catheter treatment of mitral regurgitation with mitral clips or other methods.

Treatment of arrythmias

Arrythmias frequently occur with heart failure but may also arise independently from it. Here, the pathogenic mechanisms shall be identified and new therapeutic procedures developed. The research group of Prof. Dr. Stefan Luther and Prof. Dr. Eberhard Bodenschatz (both MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization), and Prof. Dr. Markus Zabel (Dept. of Cardiology and Pneumology of the UMG) succeeded in developing a new procedure to treat life-threatening arrhythmias (ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation). For the first time the researchers were able to show in an in vivo animal model that a sequence of low-energetic electrical pulses may successfully stop atrial fibrillation.  Here, the so-called low-energy fibrillation consumes around 84% less energy than conventional defibrillation. The researchers generate a sequence of five comparatively low-energy electrical pulses in the heart using an intracardiac catheter. This new technique could alleviate the pain in patients with implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), prolong the battery life, and consequently reduce the frequency of the surgical replacement of the device. The findings are published in Nature, Vol. 475, Issue 7355, 235-239 (2011): Low-energy Control of Electrical Turbulence in the Heart.

In addition, the Heart Center of the UMGs currently performing clinical trials with new drugs to treat arrhythmias, the development of which were decisively accompanied in the past five years by researchers of the HRCG.