News | 8 July 2020

Maastricht researchers awarded Heart Foundation grant

The Dutch Heart Foundation has awarded Maastricht UMC+ researchers Constance Baaten and Pieter Goossens a "Dekker grant" (Dekkerbeurs). These are individual research grants for talented scientists, named after a former Heart Foundation director. With the grant of over 265,000 and 465,000 euros respectively, Baaten and Goossens will be able to pursue research on cardiovascular diseases over the coming years.

iStockiStockA better understanding of blood clotting to prevent thrombosis
Baaten wants to create the basis for a new drug to prevent dangerous blood clots. To this end, over the next few years she will immerse herself in the biology of blood platelets – blood cells that play a major role in forming blood clots and therefore also cause thrombosis. With blood clotting, it is always a question of balance, explains Constance Baaten. "You need blood clots to plug holes in blood vessels, but excessive clotting can lead to a blood vessel becoming blocked. This can cause a heart attack or a stroke." There are already drugs available that can prevent the formation of blood clots, but unfortunately these sometimes have such a strong effect that they cause haemorrhaging. Constance Baaten wants to study a new mechanism in the complex process of blood coagulation, so as to be able to adjust the balance very precisely.

Altering immune cells to tackle arteriosclerosis
Immunologist Pieter Goossens is going to study macrophages. These are immune cells which are useful, but which can also be harmful. They can destroy pathogens, but they also increase hardening of the arteries (plaques). There are many different types of macrophage. Using a special new microscope, Goossens will pinpoint, for both men and women, exactly where specific macrophages are located in their plaques and what exactly they do there. He will then investigate how he can alter the behaviour of harmful macrophages. In future, researchers will be able to use this knowledge to develop new drugs against arteriosclerosis.

About the Dekker grants
This year, the Heart Foundation awarded the Dekker grants for the 34th time. They are named after former Heart Foundation director Dr Egbart Dekker. He initiated in the Netherlands the practice of resuscitation by members of the public in the case of cardiac arrest. Dekker grants are for individual talented cardiovascular researchers at various stages of their career. This year, the Heart Foundation received 66 applications. Ten researchers were successful in obtaining this coveted grant and two of them are attached to Maastricht UMC+.
Source: Heart Foundation