PhD Esther Dronkers


My research aims to use the epicardium, the outer layer of the heart, to improve the self-repairing capacity of the heart. The epicardium can contribute to cardiac repair by delivery of cells via epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and through secretion of factors that stimulate the cardiac muscle. We focus on comparison of highly active fetal epicardial cells with less efficient adult cells to identify mechanisms that can optimise the adult epicardial activation. To this end we are mapping the epicardial cellular composition and secretome. Furthermore, we aim to find a novel activator of epicardial EMT using a high throughput compound screen. Ultimately, we want to validate the clinical relevance of our findings by delivering identified factors in an epicardial patch to in vivo models for cardiac injury.

Curriculum Vitae:

I studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Leiden. During my research master, I focused on cardiovascular diseases and did an internship at the Erasmus MC studying the regulation of the vascular tone of coronary arteries. My second internship was at the group of Marie-José Goumans and resulted in a PhD position. At the moment, I am a 3th year PhD student supervised by Anke Smits.



  • 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. PubMed PMID: 29757271.

  • 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. Epub 2017 Jul 24. Review. PubMed PMID: 28751220.

  • 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. PubMed PMID: 27899163; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5129650.


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