Anke Smits


As a cardiovascular cell biologist I am interested in cells that can contribute to repair of the injured heart. I focus on cell-based therapy, and on stimulation of endogenous cells with reparative capacity, specifically the epicardium.

Cell-based therapy includes the delivery of cells or cell-derived products that can contribute to repair of the injured myocardium via e.g. direct differentiation, paracrine mechanisms, or matrix remodelling. We focus on the identification of an optimal cell (product) to stimulate reparative capacity of the heart.

A second part of my research focuses on the epicardium. This cell layer on the outside of the heart plays a crucial role in the formation of the embryonic cardiovascular system by contributing cells and releasing factors that induce myocyte growth. Repair of injured heart tissue requires similar processes. Therefore, we search for stimulators of adult epicardial using cell culture systems, high-throughput screens, sequencing, and investigating the paracrine profile. All with the ultimate goal to and translate these findings to in vivo models for cardiac injury



I studied Medical Biology at Utrecht University, and subsequently obtained my a PhD at the department of Cardiology at the UMCU. Here, I investigated cardiac-tissue derived progenitor cells and their ability to become cardiac cell types in vitro and in vivo. As a post-doc I joined Marie-Jose Goumans in her move to the LUMC to start a new group focusing on cardiovascular cell biology. A Rubicon fellowship allowed me to learn more about the potential of epicardial-derived cells in cardiac repair in the lab of Prof. Riley at University College London/ Oxford University. I returned to the LUMC in 2013 and continued to study cardiac (progenitor) cells and their endogenous repair capacity, funded by a NWO-VENI, and a LUMC Research fellowship. In 2017 I was awarded a Dutch Heart foundation- Dekker grant to expand my research group focussing on the epicardium. Additionally I am currently an organising member of the European Society of Cardiology’s Scientists of Tomorrow, a young community for basic cardiovascular science.



  • The Isolation and Culture of Primary Epicardial Cells Derived from Human Adult and Fetal Heart Specimens.

    Dronkers E, Moerkamp AT, van Herwaarden T, Goumans MJ, Smits AM.

    J Vis Exp. 2018 Apr 24;(134) doi: 10.3791/57370

  • The epicardium as a source of multipotent adult cardiac progenitor cells: Their origin, role and fate.

    Smits AM, Dronkers E, Goumans MJ.

    Pharmacol Res. 2018 Jan;127:129-140 doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2017.07.020

  • Human fetal and adult epicardial-derived cells: a novel model to study their activation.

    Moerkamp AT, Lodder K, van Herwaarden T, Dronkers E, Dingenouts CK, Tengström FC, van Brakel TJ, Goumans MJ, Smits AM.

    Stem Cell Res Ther. 2016 Nov 29;7(1):174.


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