Our second 2023 Fellowship Grants was awarded to Dr. Simon Vanhentenrijk, MD, Pharm D, of the Cleveland Clinc for his work on: “Leveraging Cutting-edge PHlP-Seq Antibody Profiling to Differentiate Autoantibody Patterns in Myocarditis”.

Dr. Vanhentenrijk came to the United States after his training as a Cardiologist in Belgium.

He always wanted to know the deeper understanding of ‘how and why’ the heart reacts to different stimuli. His particular interest in heart failure and heart muscle diseases led him to join the highly competitive research lab of Dr. Tang at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. Being part of the translational research group motivates him to yield scientific excellence in the field of antibody-antigen reactions at the level of the heart muscle cells. With his pharmaceutical background, Dr. Simon Vanhentenrijk also feels the urge to create new ideas on how to develop drug therapies in myocarditis.

As a dedicated father of three lovely children, Dr. Simon Vanhentenrijk says he feels deeply connected with the purpose of the Myocarditis Foundation that continuously strives to expand scientific boundaries to save the lives of young individuals. He feels humbled, and yet passionately driven, to help increase our insights on ‘how and why’ inflammation of the heart muscle often has such devastating outcome and how we can overcome this.

Dr. Simon Vanhentenrijk’s Layman explanation of his Myocarditis Research Project

The goal of his translational research project is to use a novel, state-of-the-art technique, called Phage Display Immunoprecipitation Sequencing (PhIP-Seq) in patients with myocarditis. This technique will help us understand the interplay of antibodies in cardiac autoimmune diseases by building an extensive library of distinct human peptides. The advantage of the PhIP-Seq platform is to perform an unbiased, high-throughput assessment of antibodies potentially linked to specific conditions. A previous feasibility study using PhIP-Seq was done in Dr. Tang’s lab on sera from patients with suspected autoimmune cardiomyopathy, systemic sclerosis, systemic sclerosis with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and healthy controls. In this pilot study with a targeted approach based on our prior work on β1-adrenergic receptor antibody epitopes (research done by former laureate of the Myocarditis Foundation grant: Dr. Yuji Nagatomo), a patient with suspected autoimmune cardiomyopathy, whose antibodies binds to both extracellular loop (ECL) 1 and 2 of b1-adrenergic receptor, showed a reduced LVEF (47%), indicating a mild dysfunction of the heart.

This project also provides the framework of the multicenter Myocarditis BioBank (Dr. Tang is currently co-leading) that can leverage both retrospective and prospective cohorts with the following components: 1) detailed clinical phenotyping that can be extracted from Electronic Health Record and captured in REDCap; 2) extraction of review of primary data sources including advanced imaging (cardiac MRI or PET) and endomyocardial histological specimens; 3) retrospective tissue/imaging retrieval and deep phenotyping; 4) patient outreach for prospective blood sampling and longitudinal follow-up through surveys.

Procedures developed in this project will better define the myocarditis study population and will also greatly catalyze the foundation of the Myocarditis Foundation Biobank in terms of developing scalable processes of broad clinical phenotyping, patient enrollment, biospecimens collection, and longitudinal follow-up.

Dr. Simon Vanhentenrijk’s research grant is named in memory of Sarah Knight, who died of Viral Myocarditis at the age of 25 in 2011, and whose family and friends have been working on raising funds for Myocarditis research in the years since her passing.

Congratulations Dr. Simon Vanhentenrijk on the Myocarditis Foundation’s Fellowship Grant Award for your myocarditis research study!


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