UT researcher wins ‘Crazy Idea’ grant

| Michaela Nesvarova

UT scientist Verena Schwach has won Young@Heart's ‘Crazy Idea’ grant worth 50,000 euros. The young researcher secured the victory thanks to her idea to control the heartbeat of cultured heart tissue using ultrasound.

Verena Schwach is a post-doc researcher in the UT’s department of Applied Stem Cell Technologies. She will use the grant to study how to use ultrasound to control the beating frequency of cardiac tissue generated in the lab. If successful, this method could be very helpful for research of heart disease and new medicines.

‘There are currently two techniques to control the heartbeat of the cultured heart tissue, but they come with some issues,’ explains Schwach. ‘We can control the beating frequency using electricity or light, but that is quite invasive. Moreover, ultrasound can penetrate deeper into the tissue. This could provide a new method for testing in the lab, later on possibly even for in vivo models in animals.’

Schwach stresses that right now this is indeed only a ‘crazy idea’: ‘It’s hard to say if it will work. That’s what the grant is for – for finding out if it’s even possible. However, there were ultrasound experts on the committee deciding the winner and they chose me, so I’m hoping it’s a feasible idea. I should start working on the project within six months and I will closely collaborate with the group of Structural Dynamics, Acoustics & Control.’

Young@Heart Crazy Idea grant

Young@Heart is a group of talented young scientists from the field of cardiovascular research who aim to support the next generation of cardiovascular researchers in the Netherlands. The ‘crazy idea’ grant is meant to provide young scientists with the opportunity to test their innovative ideas. Verena Schwach’s proposal was selected out of 26 submitted ideas and received the maximum amount of 50,000 euros that can be requested per project.