22 June 2017

Awards for UM cardiology research

Three Maastricht cardiology researchers won awards at the EHRA conference in Vienna this week, where more than six thousand cardiologists came together. The conference, organised by the European Society of Cardiology, focused on electrophysiology and cardiac arrhythmias. At the conference, the Young Investigator Awards were given out to young researchers who conduct high quality research. PhD candidate and cardiologist in training Twan van Stipdonk won the first prize in the category ‘Clinical Science’. Post-doc researcher Matthijs Cluitmans came in second in the category ‘Translational Science’. And one of the EHRA Inventor Awards was given to a Maastricht researcher, Elien Engels, post-doc researcher at the Department of Physiology, who also came in second.

Twan van Stipdonk
First prize winner Twan van Stipdonk received a thousand euros for his research aimed at treating heart failure using biventricular pacemakers (cardiac resynchronisation therapy). His research seems to show that a simple measurement from an electrocardiogram of patients with heart failure (the QRS area) is more appropriate than the current way of working for selecting patients who would benefit from a biventricular pacemaker. This may prevent unnecessary operations in the future or even prevent patients who need a pacemaker from being incorrectly diagnosed and not getting one.

Elien Engels
Elien Engels won two thousand euros for her invention, which also focuses on the optimisation of this type of pacemaker (for people whose two heart chambers no longer contract at the same time). The wires of these pacemakers can be used not only to stimulate the heart, but also to measure the electrical activity of the heart. Engels has discovered that using these measurements, the pacemaker can be programmed to maximise heart function. The major advantage of her invention is that the optimisation is one hundred percent patient-specific and can take place automatically and continuously. This can further improve care involving the use of a pacemaker in the future.

Matthijs Cluitmans
In September 2016, Matthijs Cluitmans got his PhD from Maastricht University based on research that took place partly at Cardiology and partly at the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering (DKE). Through his research, Cluitmans developed a new application of ECGI (electrocardiographic imaging), as an addition to the familiar ECG (electrocardiogram). Using his technique, which he is currently further developing and researching in Maastricht, a more detailed level of cardiac arrhythmia can be observed without the need for internal measurements. The expectation is that this will provide more insight into the sudden cardiac arrest that healthy people sometimes experience. Also read the press release Maastricht UMC+ issued in August 2016.