Pathobiology of the dyssynchronous heart

Biology of Disease
Green and Blue Lecture Hall, UMCU
Prof. Frits Prinzen

Prof. Frits Prinzen
Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Department of Physiology, Maastricht University 


In this lecture, I will show some highlights of my research during the last 25 years, on the physiology of the heart during conditions of abnormal electrical activation. A main finding was that relatively small abnormalities in electrical impulse conduction lead to large abnormalities in regional contraction patterns within one ventricle and similarly large differences in molecular and cellular properties. Because these differences imply that different regions counteract each other, abnormal electrical activation, as present during conventional right ventricular pacing and during left bundle branch block, have a strong adverse effect on overall ventricular pump function and this often leads to heart failure and reduces survival. Many of our studies were focused on better pacing therapies to prevent or revert the conduction abnormalities, first in animals and computer models, and subsequently also in patients.

Take home messages are that there is an important role for biologists in (bio)medical science and that, after decades of increasing attention to molecular details, there is a growing need for integration of all this molecular knowledge. After all, functions in the body are usually regulated by a combination of several pathways and genes. Finally, because cardiac pacing affects contraction and because mechanical stimulation is a strong stimulus for many cellular processes, there may be many more applications for pacing than currently used.

CV Prof. Frits Prinzen
Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Department of Physiology, Maastricht University                                                                                                               

Frits Prinzen studied Medical Biology at Utrecht University. After that, he was a PhD student at the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht where he studied the relation between cardiac mechanics, metabolism and blood flow during Ischemia. He subsequently did a post-doc at the same institute, and became Assistant Professor. After his sabbatical leave at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, he became associate Professor of Physiology at Maastricht University. In 2004 Frots Prinzen went on a second sabbatical leave at University of Göttingen in Germany. Since 2009, he is Professor of Physiology, specialized in Electro Mechanics of the Heart at Maastricht University. With his background Prof. Prinzen is a world expert on pacing therapies, both for bradycardia and for heart failure (cardiac resynchronization therapy, CRT). 

Main research topics:

Relation between cardiac ventricular electrical activation and contraction and consequences for cardiac pump function, both acutely and chronically (“remodeling”). Potential therapeutic approaches to correct abnormalities in electrical activation, such as pacemaker therapies. Primarily animal experimental work, but with important links to Biomedical Engineering (computer models of cardiac electrophysiology and mechanics) and Cardiology (patients with pacemakers, bundle branch block, heart failure, TAVI).

His research has been funded by the Netherlands organization for Research (NOW, ZonMW), Netherlands Heart Foundation, European Union (HORIZON 2020), Center of Translational and Molecular Medicine (CTMM) and by various pharmaceutical and pacemaker companies.

The research has lead to 240 scientific articles, 23 PhD degrees and 11 patent applications. 


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