Postion(s): Scientist, McEwen Stem Cell Institute, University Health Network & Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto
Research: Dr. Protze’s research program focuses on human heart development and diseases with the overarching goal to develop new therapies to treat cardiovascular diseases. To this end, her laboratory employs a variety of experimental approaches ranging from cell biology to molecular genetics, genomics, and electrophysiology, using human pluripotent stem cells as a model system. The current projects in Dr. Protze’s laboratory are focused on the cardiac conduction system that regulates the heartbeat and on establishing developmental biology-based approaches for the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into the sinoatrial node and atrioventricular node pacemaker cells. In these projects, new insights into the development of the pacemaker cells of the human heart are gained. In addition, Dr. Protze is applying the ability to generate pacemaker cells to patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells to establish in vitro models of pacemaker diseases, such as congenital heart block. These studies aim at exploring disease mechanisms and identifying potential drug treatment targets. Furthermore, Dr. Protze is also exploring the application of the stem cell-derived pacemaker populations in cell therapy approaches to treat heart rhythm disorders. To this end, her research team is using electrophysiology assays to test the ability of the pacemaker cells to function as a biological pacemaker in vitro and in vivo in small and large pre-clinical animal models.