Understanding the molecular and biochemical cues such as TGFβ signalling that govern (cardiovascular) cell differentiation and behaviour is used to improve cardiovascular function. Injection of cardiac progenitor cells into the infarct border zone revealed a major contribution of exosomes to the cells beneficial effects (Vrijsen 2016; Maring 2018). To unravel the role of (endogenous) epicardial cells in heart development and repair we developed an in vitro cell system (Moerkamp 2016; Dronkers 2018) and are currently using this model to identify EMT activators. Rare genetic disorders like PAH, HHT and FOP, show disturbed TGFβ signalling and enhanced endothelial to mesenchymal transition thereby impairing cardiovascular cell differentiation and function of the cardiovascular system. We aim to understand the molecular and physiological mechanisms behind these diseases and employ this knowledge to identify e.g. small molecules (Sánchez-Duffhues 2018) to steer the differentiation of cardiovascular cells in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, using e.g. growth-factor cocktails, exosomes, DPP-4 inhibitors (Dingenouts 2017) and transcription factors, we explore the capacity of (stem) cells to home to sites of injury and/or repair the (cardiovascular) tissue from within.



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