I am driven to further our understanding of cardiac arrhythmias, and to improve the diagnosis and therapy of patients with heart rhythm disorders. As a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University and a senior scientist at Philips Research, I combine my scientific curiosity with the clinical need for valorization.

As an academic scientist, I strive to bring more insight in the arrhythmia mechanisms of patients that suffer from sudden cardiac arrest without a clear cause (also known as idiopathic ventricular fibrillation). Ultimately, this would not only help diagnosis and treatment of these patients, but also help the early detection of a risk for sudden cardiac arrest in undiagnosed, seemingly healthy individuals.

As an industry scientist, I aim to bring the newest insights of the field of cardiac research to the benefit of patients and cardiologists by improving the transition from science to valorization in a transparent fashion.

Ultimately, I hope to use my dual background as biomedical engineer and medical doctor to bring the fields of industrial engineering, academic science and clinical medicine closer together.

The trigger-substrate interaction that may lead to “unexplained” sudden cardiac arrest

In our latest paper we start to unravel the mechanisms of "unexplained" sudden cardiac arrest. Referral link for free access to the paper
Looking back, we often understand what happened when somebody had sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Sometimes, we don’t know what happened, even after extensive diagnostics. Especially in young, apparently healthy individuals, unexplained SCA has a major impact, despite being rare. We employed electrocardiographic imaging (ECGI) in survivors of unexplained SCA to get more insight in the arrhythmia substrate. ECGI extends the clinical electrocardiogram by using many more electrodes and imaging. We used it to study electrical recovery that happens after each heartbeat. In survivors of SCA in Maastricht UMC+, we found (clinically concealed) abnormalities in the electrical recovery of their hearts. In particular, these SCA survivors often have regions of early recovery next to regions of late recovery, with steep recovery gradients in between, and premature beats originating from the early recovery region. In experiments with explanted hearts at IHU LIRYC and in computer models (with support of Philips) we show that these premature beats may interact with the recovery gradients and lead to life-threatening arrhythmias. A tl/dr summary can be found in this Twitter thread.
These findings may help to provide targets for early diagnosis and improved therapy for sudden cardiac arrest, which we will need to study with future work.

MUMC-Philips work towards personalized whole-heart modeling

I am excited to share the first results of my work at the interface of academia and industry from a collaboration between Maastricht University Medical Centre and Philips. At the Computing in Cardiology 2019 conference in Singapore we shared the first steps towards a robust, clinically applicable pipeline for personalized electrophysiology modeling. The corresponding paper can be found here and will form a corner stone for future collaborative projects on personalized medicine in cardiac electrophysiology.
Lau, K., Groth, A., Waechter-stehle, I., Nguyen, U. C., Volders, P. G., Heijman, J., Weese, J., Cluitmans, M. J. (2019). Personalized Ventricular Arrhythmia Simulation Framework to Study Vulnerable Trigger Locations on Top of Scar Substrate. Computing in Cardiology, In press.

Dutch Heart Foundation grant ceremony

Two personal career grants in 2018

I'm happy to share that I have been awarded to personal career grants: a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and a Dekker junior postdoc grant from the Dutch Heart Foundation. I am very proud that my research proposal is recognized both by the engineering experts at NWO and the cardiac experts at the Heart Foundation. These grants allow me to integrate clinical data from Maastricht UMC with experimental data (which I have obtained during my 2018 stay at the Liryc institute in Bordeaux, France) for the development of personalized computational models. I will specifically focus on apparently healthy individuals, in whom life-threatening heart-rhythm disorders can develop suddenly. In this study, new imaging techniques will be combined with computer simulations to understand the mechanisms of these rhythm disorders. In the future, such simulations will hopefully help to predict an individual’s risk for sudden cardiac death and choose treatment.

Featured interview

January 2018’s UM Magazine featured an interview with me where we discuss the interdisciplinary character of my work. The full online interview can be found here (English) and here (Dutch).

Funding for idiopathic VF imaging with ECGI

In 2017, the Dutch Heart Foundation has granted a ~1 million euro subsidy for our study on idiopathic ventricular fibrillation, a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death. We will use electrocardiographic imaging to investigate the substrate of such arrhythmias in patients throughout the Netherlands. Press release. The study started in 2018 and we will keep you updated on its results!

EHRA YIA second prize

Our work was selected as Finalist in the Young Investigator Award: Basic and Translational Science competition of the EHRA EUROPACE-CARDIOSTIM 2017 conference in Vienna, Austria, 18-21 June 2017 and received the Second Prize during the conference!

Winner of the Clinical Needs Translational Award

Our team's work was awarded a joint award by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and Computing in Cardiology (CinC) with the Clinical Needs Translational Award. This award was recognized at the eCardiology Working Group Meeting of ESC in Rome (August 29, 2016) and the CinC conference in Vancouver (September 14, 2016).

PhD thesis

I have defended my PhD thesis on September 29, 2016 at Maastricht University in a public defense. Please, find a copy of this thesis here. The defense recording is available through this link (4PM CEST, 10AM EDT, 8AM MNT), first 15 minutes is in Dutch, the remainder in English.

Winner of CinC 2014 Young Investigator Award

We are selected as winner in the Rosanna Degani Young Investigator Awards of the Computing in Cardiology (CinC) Conference 2014, held in Cambridge, MA, September 2014.
You can find my personal website here.