University of Twente researcher Jeroen Rouwkema is awarded the prestigious Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC). Rouwkema will receive ERC funding (two million Euros) for his project ‘VascArbor’, the goal of which is to control the development and organization of blood vessels in cultured tissues.
The aim of Jeroen Rouwkema’s research is to help lay the groundwork needed to successfully connect blood vessels in lab-grown tissue to patients’ circulatory systems. Rouwkema explains: “Cultivated tissues have the potential to replace donor tissue, and may well do so in future, but their clinical application is still rather limited. Cultivated tissues often lack blood vessel networks, which makes it difficult to integrate them into the body. We want to change that.”
Jeroen Rouwkema’s project involves the use of tissue building blocks, as well as bioprinting, in an effort to create complex 3D heart muscle tissue, containing an organized blood vessel network. The organization of blood vessels is mediated by fluid flows in the cultured tissue. In addition, various growth factors are taken up at specific locations within the tissue, to achieve even better control of blood vessel organization.
Jeroen Rouwkema is a researcher in the University of Twente’s department of Biomechanical Engineering. He is affiliated with the MIRA research institute and the faculty of Engineering Technology (ET). Rouwkema also teaches classes in the context of two University of Twente educational programmes: Biomedical Engineering and Technical Medicine.
In 2014 and 2015, he worked at Harvard Medical School, in the US, as a visiting researcher. His visit was funded by a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowships. His expertise and interests are in the fields of tissue research, vascularity (circulation), and the role of biomechanical signals in these processes. Rouwkema’s work has been published in such prestigious journals as Nature Biotechnology. Earlier in his career, he received a VENI grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Dutch science funding body.
The European Research Council is one of the most prestigious funders of frontier research worldwide. Its mission is to encourage highest quality research in Europe, supporting individual investigators across all fields, on the basis of their scientific excellence. ERC Consolidator Grants are intended for scientists in a specific phase of their career (from seven to twelve years after completing their PhD).