€ 3 Million for Heart Cell Restoration Project

Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading cause of death. The EU project "Lion-Hearted" is exploring revolutionary new treatments that include scientific expertise found at the Johannes Kepler University Linz.

[Translate to Englisch:] Dr. Martin Kaltenbrunner
[Translate to Englisch:] Dr. Martin Kaltenbrunner

The number of patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease rises every day, mainly due to a rapidly aging population. The socio-economic impact is enormous. Heart failure, for example, can greatly impair one’s quality of life, leading to many patients becoming dependent on caregivers. Doctors lack effective pharmacological treatments as the disease’s progression can only be delayed but not reversed.

This is where project Lion-Hearted comes in. Three million euros will be available for interdisciplinary and internationally networked research to develop light and organic nanotechnology to treat cardiovascular disease. In concrete terms, the goal is to enable heart repairs by combining nanotechnology, cardiology, and light technology. Dr. Martin Kaltenbrunner, Department of Physics of Soft Matter at the JKU, explained: "We want to develop an implantable device to maintain – even restore – the heart and blood vessel functions."

European Cooperation
This "optoceutical platform" has been initiated by eight European partners that includes the JKU clinical research centers as well as the Humanitas Hospital in Milan (Italy, project management) and the Charité in Berlin (Germany).

The three-step project is as follows:

  1. Develop organically photosensitive materials that can stimulate the replication of certain cardiac cells
  2. Test these materials on animals
  3. Develop a prototype to apply the methods to the human body

Kaltenbrunner spoke about the JKU’s participation in the project and added: "Our team is a leader in developing so-called 'soft' electronics.  By using stretchable materials, we can create forms of optoelectronic devices that are well suited to use on or with humans. Project Lion-Hearted focuses on implantable soft light sources and photodetectors in order to make targeted use of the new nanoparticles and enable new heart cells to grow."

Project Partners: 

  • Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (JKU)
  • IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy)
  • Università degli Studi di Pavia (Italy)
  • Alma Mater Studiorum -Università di Bologna (Italy)
  • IRCCS Istituto Clinico Humanitas (Italy)
  • Technische Universität München (Germany)
  • Universität Del Pais Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (Spain)
  • Charité - Universitätsmedizin (Germany)