Kaunas-Heidelberg Research Project: The Role of Mitochondria and Extracellular Vesicles in Cardiomyocyte Pathologies Induced by Ischaemia and Cancer Treatment

Duration of the project

01.06.2022. - 31.10.2022.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

Lithuania University of Health Sciences
University Hospital Heidelberg

Project manager

Dr. Aiste Jekabsone

Aims of the project

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and the number of cases is continuously rising. The acute coronary syndrome causes myocardial ischaemia that primes mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) resulting in mitochondrial and, in its turn, cardiomyocyte functional failure and death with a risk of lethal consequences. It was recently found that anticancer drugs can also cause mitochondria-mediated cardiovascular failure, and this is one of the main causes of mortality in cancer patients. Reactive oxygen species produced by anthracyclines have been shown to stimulate the opening of the mPTP and cause damage that is similar to ischaemia-reperfusion injury. Recent studies indicate that extracellular vesicles (EVs) can modulate the viability of damaged cardiomyocytes via mitochondrial function. However, the signalling of EVs from different cells and their therapeutic potential for the above-mentioned pathologies is still poorly understood. The project aims to fill this gap by initiating studies on the effect of EVs from normal, hypoxic and cancer drug-treated cardiomyocytes, cardiac fibroblasts, endothelial and stem cells on cardiomyocyte viability and mitochondrial function under conditions of normoxia, hypoxia and reoxygenation.

Main activities of the project

  1. Experimental work on cell culture, EV isolation, characterisation, cardiomyocyte treatment and mitochondrial function assessment – Preclinical Research Laboratory for Medicinal Products of the Institute of Cardiology, LSMU, Kaunas, Lithuania
  2. Research exchange visits by German and Lithuanian doctoral fellows
  3. Result and further joint project plan discussion in teams in Kaunas and Heidelberg
  4. Dissemination of the project results via institutional workshops in LSMU and University Hospital Heidelberg
  5. Dissemination of the project results in an international conference in Germany

Project target group


  • Scientists from the Laboratory of Preclinical Drug Investigation of the Institute of Cardiology, Kaunas, 10 members involved.
  • Staff of the partnering institution University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, (5 members in the translational research group), one researcher exchanging the facilities.



  • Scientists from other than directly participating departments of both institutions will benefit from the project results and joined workshops (approx. 50 people).
  • International scientific and medical community will benefit from the project results about the involvement of EVs and mitochondria in cardiomyocyte pathologies (>100 people).
  • In the longer run, patients with cardiovascular pathologies will benefit from the mitochondria-targeted EV therapies (>1mio patients).