BioMediTech Research Groups

Heart Group

Group Leader: Professor Katriina Aalto-Setälä


About Us

The main aim of heart group is to differentiate functional cardiomyocytes and hepatocytes from pluripotent stem cells and study different genetic heart diseases and atherosclerosis with the help of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology. Research focuses also on the development of iPSC lines and optimizing the differentiation methods and growth environment of cardiomyocytes and hepatocytes. This includes studying the effects of both biochemical and physical factors on the differentiation of these cells, their growth, maturation and characteristics. Cardiac and hepatic differentiations are routine technologies in our laboratory.

With experience in molecular biology, molecular genetics, and clinical cardiology, and with close collaboration networks in Finland and abroad we have successfully established facilities and techniques to investigate iPSCs and established disease models for genetic cardiac diseases. We are studying cells from patients with different cardiac diseases and we have set up a range of methods to detect abnormalities in cell morphology, beating behavior as well as in electrical properties of the cells. In addition, we are studying responses of different drugs on patient- and mutation specific cardiomyocytes and conducting clinical studies where the cell model observations on drug responses are verified in patients.

The heart group also conducts research with biomaterials suitable for the cultivation of cardiomycoytes. In addition, we are participating in designing different devises and platforms to alter cell culture conditions and designing softwares to automatically analyze our in vitro research data. The research group engages actively in co-operation with experts in various fields, including engineers, experts in biomaterials, electrophysiologists, cell model experts and clinicians.

Research interests and expertise

Research Interests

  • Modeling of genetic cardiac diseases with patient specific iPSC derived cardiomyocytes
  • Development of the cell culture environment to enhance the differentiation and maturation of iPS cell derived cardiomyocytes
  • Using iPSC-derived hepatocytes to study lipidomics related to atherosclerosis
  • Combine clinical data with in vitro studies
  • Improvement of cell culture conditions and analysis of in vitro research data


  • Personalized medicine and diagnostics
  • Clinical cardiology
  • Access to patients with genetic cardiac diseases
  • Derivation and culturing of patient-specific iPS cells (also by non-viral methods)
  • Cardiac differentiation
  • Assessment of the functional properties of differentiated cardiomyocytes
  • Hepatocyte differentiation and assessment of their functionality


  • iPS cell core facility
  • Disease models including LQT, CPVT, HCM, atherosclerosis
  • Cell analysis softwares (Cytospectre, CardioMDA, AnomalyExplorer, CellVisus)
  • More than 40 publications
  • Six completed PhD thesis during 2010-2016
  • Part of two EU FP7 consortiums
  • Academy of Finland Center of Excellence


  • Patient-specific iPS cells
  • Cardiac differentiation
  • Hepatocyte differentiation
  • Molecular biology (e.g. single-cell qPCR, miRNA qPCR)
  • Ca-imaging
  • Electrophysiology
  • Analysis tools for cell morphology and cardiomyocyte functionality

Collaboration offer and requests

Contact group leader Professor Katriina Aalto-Setälä, katriina.aalto-setala(at)

Major Publications

  1. Kiamehr M, Viiri LE, Vihervaara T, Koistinen KM, Hilvo M, Ekroos K, Käkelä R, Aalto-Setälä K. Lipidomic profiling of patient-specific iPSC-derived hepatocyte-like cells. Dis Model Mech ;10(9)1141-1153, 2017
  2. Penttinen K, Swan H, Vanninen S, Paavola J, Lahtinen AM, Kontula K, Aalto-Setälä K. Antiarrhythmic Effects of Dantrolene in Patients with Catecholaminergic Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia and Replication of the Responses Using iPSC Models. PLoS One 2015 ;10(5)e0125366
  3. Ojala M, Prajapati C, Pölönen RP, Rajala K, Pekkanen-Mattila M, Rasku J, Larsson K, Aalto-Setälä K. Mutation-Specific Phenotypes in hiPSC-Derived Cardiomyocytes Carrying Either Myosin-Binding Protein C Or α-Tropomyosin Mutation for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Stem Cells Int ;2016
  4. Anna L. Kiviaho Antti Ahola, Kim Larsson, Kirsi Penttinen, Mari Pekkanen-Mattila, Henna Venäläinen, Kiti Paavola, Jari Hyttinen, Katriina Aalto-Setälä. Distinct electrophysiological and mechanical beating phenotypes of Long QT syndrome type 1 -specific cardiomyocytes carrying different mutations. IJC Heart & Vasculature 25 April 2015.
  5. Lahti AL, Kujala VJ, Chapman H, Koivisto AP, Pekkanen-Mattila M, Kerkelä E, Hyttinen J, Kontula K, Swan H, Conklin BR, Yamanaka S, Silvennoinen O, Aalto-Setälä K. Model for long QT syndrome type 2 using human iPS cells demonstrates arrhythmogenic characteristics in cell culture. Dis Model Mech. 2012 Mar;5(2):220-30.

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