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Cardiovascular diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases
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Translational Research IT (TraIT)
Circulating Cells: The natural sensors of plaque and patient destabilization (CIRCULATING CELLS) – University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), Utrecht

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. G. Pasterkamp
CTMM Program manager: Erna Erdtsieck-Ernste
Patients suffering from atherosclerotic plaques (deposits, largely composed of macrophage white blood cells, on the internal walls of arteries) typically exhibit few or no symptoms until an unstable plaque disrupts and leads to the formation of a blood clot that can block the blood flow. The results are typically catastrophic (for example, stroke or heat attack). At present, it is not possible to discriminate patients that hide these so-called ‘unstable vulnerable plaques’. If this were feasible, these patients could undergo preventive treatment.
This project aims to investigate ‘circulating cells’ (for example, white blood cells and blood platelets) to see if they carry biomarkers suitable for discriminating patients with an increased risk of developing multiple unstable plaques, together with quantification of that risk. Evidence for the existence of these biomarkers is based on the fact that circulating cells can be activated by local contact with atherosclerotic plaques.
In parallel to biomarker discovery, the project partners will also develop and validate novel technology to measure cell-based biomarkers, with the objective of generating technology that allows bedside screening or testing in a general practitioner’s office to assess atherosclerotic risk and disease progression. Quantification of these biomarkers will also help in personalizing therapy regimes and in drug development.
  Pasterkamp - pasterkamp_01.jpg
Prof. Dr. G. Pasterkamp is head of the Experimental Cardiology Laboratory at the UMCU (University Medical Center Utrecht). He studied medicine and clinical epidemiology. In his research group, special attention is paid to arterial remodeling and the role of inflammation in atherosclerotic disease. He is coordinator of the KP6 European STREP-SME consortium "Immunath". In 2002 he was one of the initiators of a biomarker research initiative: Athero-Express, an ongoing longitudinal biobank study with the objective of studying plaque characteristics in relation to the occurrence of cardiovascular events.

Prof. dr. Pasterkamp:
"A significant gap still exists between the discovery and the clinical application of diagnostic modalities and therapeutics. In Circulating Cells we will bridge the discovery phase and application phase by collaborative efforts between private and public partners. In the CTMM consortium Circulating Cells, industry and academia both share the objective to diagnose, prevent and treat progression of atherosclerotic disease. In this research program where business meets academia, it will be a great challenge to make optimal use of the research domain and deliverables of each of the collaborative partners."

Industrial partners:
  • Philips Electronics
  • FutureDiagnostics
  • FEI
  • Thermofisher Scientific
  • Beckman Coulter
  • Cavadis
  • Flexgen
  • Orbus Neich
  • Galapagos BV 
  • ACS Biomarker
  • InteRNA
Academic partners:
  • Universiteit Utrecht, Utrecht,
  • Interuniversitair Cardiologisch Instituut Nederland (ICIN), Utrecht ,
  • Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht (UMCU), Utrecht,
  • Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht,
  • Erasmus Medisch Centrum (EMC),
  • Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam (EUR)
  • Leids Universitair Centrum (LUMC), Leiden,
  • Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e), Eindhoven,
  • Leiden Universiteit, Leiden,
  • Imperial College London, London,
The CTMM Circulating Cells project also receives additional contribution from the Netherlands Heart Foundation.    
Status Circulating Cells project end of 2009: PDF (download)
In response to the first call for project proposals in 2007, the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM) announced on April 1, 2008, that nine first-call projects would receive research funding amounting to a total of 150 million Euro. On March 10, 2009, it announced that eight new project proposals, submitted in the fall of 2008 in response to the second call for proposals, will receive funding amounting to a total of almost another 100 million Euro.
All Dutch university medical centers, plus several universities, a broad spectrum of small and medium-sized enterprises, major industry leaders including Philips and DSM, and the Dutch Government are involved.
The funding is provided by the Dutch government, industry and academia. The research is focused firmly on the ‘translational’ aspects of molecular medicine so that results can be applied as quickly as possible to actual patient care.
Circulating cells is one of the projects from the first call.
(updated: 13-02-2012)




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