Blanche Schroen is team leader at the laboratory of Experimental Cardiology, which is part of the department of Cardiology and of the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM). She became professor of Experimental Cardiology at the Cardiology department in 2017.
Schroen obtained her master degree in Biological Health Sciences from Maastricht University in 2002. Her PhD (2002-2006) at Maastricht University, department of Cardiology, aimed at finding molecular determinants of heart failure-susceptibility using genomics techniques. To follow-up on this work, she became a post-doctoral fellow on cardiac genetical genomics at Imperial College London, in the renowned lab of Profs Timothy Aitman and Stuart Cook, with the support of an NWO Rubicon grant. In 2008, she returned to the department of Cardiology at Maastricht University, and started her current research on the role of non-coding RNAs as susceptibility factors for the development of heart failure. A veni grant allowed a continuation of the search for novel non-coding RNAs with a role in heart failure development. The research shifted towards the role of immune cells in the development of heart failure, based on the observation that immune cells invade the heart not only during severe pathogenic insults such as a myocardial infarction, but also upon mild pressure overload. Indeed, the small non-coding RNA, microRNA-155, turned out to be a susceptibility factor for viral myocarditis, as well as a crucial inflammatory contributor to the development of cardiac hypertrophy and failure via the early invasion of immune cells during pressure overload. This work established that immune activation plays an early role in heart failure development and is a therapeutic target.
At present, the role of small non- coding RNAs in cardiac pathology is well established, and knowledge on roles of other non-coding RNAs in the heart, including long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), is emerging. From 2012 on, she studies lncRNAs for their roles in immune activation and heart failure development with support of NWO vidi and NHS Dekker grants. This work builds further on the fundaments that make her areas of expertise, including molecular biology of non-coding RNAs, pathophysiological mechanisms in heart failure, genetics, cardiac histology and (inflammatory) cell biology. In addition, she has liaised with physiologist Dr Marc van Bilsen and with cardiologist Dr Vanessa van Empel to bring the research closer to the patient. The translational team, initially supported by a grant from the Health Foundation Limburg, recently received essential support from CVON for the SHE-PREDICTS-HF program that is a close collaboration with Prof Stephane Heymans and Prof Rudolf de Boer (UMC Gronungen). Her research group within the Experimental Cardiology lab comprises of 4 biological and one medical PhD student, and 2 shared research technicians. With the diverse expertises present within the team, new research avenues are explored with the aim of approaching novel clinical solutions for heart failure patients.
In addition to her own cardiology-oriented research, Blanche Schroen has a broader interest in science policy and communication. For this reason, she was asked by the deans of FHML to become one of the founding members of the Maastricht Young Academy (MYA), that was initiated by the rector of Maastricht University, Prof Rianne Letschert. More information on MYA can be found on their website: https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/nl/onderzoek/maastricht-young-academy. Follow us on Twitter via @MaastrichtYA