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REANIMA: New approaches in heart research

DPZ participates in Europe-wide research program on heart regeneration
Heart of a newborn mouse that still has its regeneration capacity. The image shows cells of the immune system and coronary vasculature, both of which are relevant for cardiac regeneration. Photo: Centro Nacionales de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC)
Prof. Rabea Hinkel, Head of the Laboratory Animal Science Unit at the DPZ. Photo: Karin Tilch
Prof. Rabea Hinkel, Head of the Laboratory Animal Science Unit at the DPZ. Photo: Karin Tilch

The research of new mechanisms of tissue regeneration in heart diseases and their successful transfer into medical applications are the central objectives of the REANIMA project. The Europe-wide research program is coordinated by the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) in Madrid and supported by the EU with eight million euros over five years. Eleven other European research institutions are also working on the project. The DPZ's Laboratory Animal Science Unit, headed by Rabea Hinkel, is involved in the project. It will officially start in January 2020.

Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death worldwide. The associated heart failure is a disease that can currently only be cured, if at all, by heart transplants. The reason for heart failure is the inability of the heart to regenerate dead muscle cells itself. In order to solve this problem, numerous scientists are now conducting joint research within the REANIMA project. The aim is to offer new therapies for heart regeneration.

Fish and amphibians are able to regenerate their hearts and recent studies have also shown tissue regeneration in the injured hearts of newborn mice. However, the hearts of adult mammals, including humans, are not capable of regeneration.

Within the REANIMA project, the knowledge gained from research on animal models will be comprehensively analyzed in order to incorporate it into new regenerative therapies for the treatment of heart failure. The project combines knowledge from animal species that can regenerate their hearts (fish and amphibians), from animals that cannot (adult mammals), and from human heart tissue obtained through tissue engineering.

In addition to the CNIC and the DPZ, other partners in the project include the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (Germany), King's College London (Great Britain), the University of Bern (Switzerland), the Research Institute for Molecular Pathology Society MBH (Austria), the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), the Koninklijke nederlandse akademie van wetenschappen (Netherlands), Ethris GMBH (Germany); ZeClinics SL (Spain), Scuola Superiore Di Studi Universitari e di perfezionamento S Anna (Italy) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI (Germany).

By bringing together industry partners and scientists specializing in translational and preclinical research, REANIMA will enable the development of new advanced therapies.