Ambassador update: Prof. Sanjay Sinha

August's ambassador update

Prof. Sanjay Sinha

BHF Senior Clinical Research Fellow & Professor of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine

Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge

I’ve now had my own lab for 15 years at the University of Cambridge. We’ve come a long way in that time and worryingly can see how much further we still need to go! The group’s overall aim is to develop new treatments for cardiovascular diseases, using our expertise in cardiovascular development, regeneration and disease modelling. Our work combines the fields of stem cell biology and cardiovascular biology to provide new insights into human cardiovascular development and novel treatments for vascular diseases. Underpinning this work is our development of lineage-specific differentiation protocols to obtain various cardiovascular cell types from human pluripotent stem cells.

We have pioneered the generation of embryonic lineage-specific vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC) from human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells, using chemically defined conditions. We have used this system to model genetically triggered aortopathies, such as Marfan and Loeys-Dietz syndromes. These "disease-in-a-dish" models are being used to understand the pathophysiology of these conditions and to screen for new treatments. Additionally we are testing the regenerative potential of hESC-derived epicardium and other cardiovascular cell types for heart repair after myocardial infarction, either through direct injection or in the form of an in vitro generated myocardial "patch".

The group is now about 12-14 strong and I’m incredibly proud and full of respect for the people who have come through the lab and those who currently make up the Sinha group. Their energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity truly rubs off on an old codger like me. Over the years my lab has been supported by various charities including the Wellcome Trust, the Kusuma Trust, the Stroke Association and most of all by the British Heart Foundation. In fact the BHF have been so instrumental in supporting the lab that I felt we had to give something back and so in a moment of weakness I volunteered to run the London Marathon in October to support them back. The BSCR has also been an instrumental part of our journey over the years and the annual meetings are invariably one of the highlights of the conference season. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to serve on the BSCR committee in a number of roles for several years and would recommend all members to consider putting their names forward at some stage and play a part in shaping this organisation that belongs to all of us and impact the wider cardiovascular research sphere.

  • Cheung C et al. Generation of human vascular SMC subtypes provides insights into embryological origin-dependent disease susceptibility. Nature Biotech 2012;30:165-73. PMID: 22252507 [Link]
  • Iyer D et al. Robust Derivation of Epicardium and Its Differentiated SMC  progeny from Human PSCs. Development 2015;142:1528-41. PMID: 26932673 [Link]
  • Granata A et al. An iPSC-derived vascular model of Marfan syndrome identifies key mediators of smooth muscle cell death. Nature Genetics 2017;49:97-109. PMID: 27893734 [Link]
  • Bargehr J et al. Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Epicardial Cells Augment Cardiomyocyte-Driven Heart Regeneration. Nature Biotech 2019;37:895-906. PMID: 31375810 [Link]
  • Colzani M et al. Modulating hESC-derived cardiomyocyte and endothelial cell function with triple-helical peptides for heart tissue engineering. Biomaterials. 2020 Dec 16;269:120612. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33385684. [Link]