Laboratory of Cardiovascular Physiology

"Get right to the heart of the matter: finding the underlying mechanisms in cardiovascular diseases"

Logo Cardio Transparante Achtergond Logo Cardio Transparante Achtergond

Prof. dr. Virginie Bito

Glycated Proteins
Cardiac Stem Cells
Adult Cardiomyocytes
Cardiovascular Physiology

+32 (11) 26 92 85


Heart failure (HF) is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide affecting ~2% of the worldwide population. HF is defined as the inability of the heart to meet the energy demand of the body. Current therapeutic approaches can slow down but not stop the progression of HF. Therefore, our research is focused on finding the underlying mechanisms leading to HF. So that patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases can be cured in the future.


  • The role of Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs) in Cardiovascular Dysfunction
  • Exercise Intervention as a potential therapy for Diabetic Cardiomyopathy
  • Stem Cell transplantation as a new therapy for Myocardial Infarction
  • Chemotherapy-induced Cardiotoxicity

VLIR-UOS projects:

Short Initiatives with UNIKI (DR Congo) (2020-2022)-Flemish promotor

Heart failure in DR Congo: inter-university collaboration for capacity building in Kindu

Inter-university cooperation, essential for a better knowledge of the local health situation and optimized teaching of students, guarantees a significant long-term impact for the population in DR Congo. This 2-year project is clearly in line with this approach. Thanks to the studies funded by VLIR-UOS, two of the partners involved have already been able to identify the main classical risks of heart failure in DR Congo. The results obtained suggest an important role of emerging risks in this process that still need to be identified, in order to better treat heart failure patients in the long term. To this end, an epidemiological study, involving 2 initial university partners (UNILU and UCB), by including UNIKI in the consortium, for dissemination and south-south support to the strengthening of a regional university; with the support of UHasselt (Belgium) will be carried out. In addition, a physiology laboratory is installed and practical work is carried out in Kindu, to improve the training of future doctors locally.

TEAM project with UNIKI (DR Congo) (2022-2026)- Flemish promotor

Rethink and reform education of medical doctors to enhance patient care in KINDU, through the renewal of the medical curriculum at the Faculty of Medicine at UNIKI (University of KINDU, DR Congo)

Access to affordable and adequately equipped medical facilities in Kindu is limited, resulting in poor patient care. Even if this actual poor situation is multifactorial and has a significant impact on the local population, providing an adapted curriculum for medical students to become generalists, specifically trained in treating most frequent diseases, could be the first step to improve the situation and have a significant impact for the local population. The outcomes of the proposed project are: (1) a renewed 1st cycle curriculum of medicine, on its content by also including applied practical’s but also in its pedagogical approach towards a more integrated medicine, (2) access to digital learning means by renewing the library and the anatomy laboratory and (3) an increased number of permanent teaching staff holding a PhD. As such, capacity building, infrastructure and education of future medical doctors (i.e. generalists) will be improved, resulting in better health care for the population of Kindu. This proposal is a follow-up project of a VLIR-UOS SI (SI 2020-01-52) ending in August 2022.

IUC project with UNILU (DR Congo) (2021-2031)- IUC Flemisch coordinator

Challenges and opportunities for a sustainable socio-ecology in the Katangese Copperbelt Area

Between 2003 and 2018, the DRC has experienced an average economic growth of 5%, which was mainly driven by the Katangese copper and cobalt sector, accounting for more than 80% of the country’s export earnings. It is well known, however, that this growth has not trickled down to the majority of the population. Despite being the engine for the country’s growth, poverty and inequality remain high in the Katangese Copperbelt Area (KCA). The population faces many challenges related to food safety and food security, health and environmental pollution, poor governance and physical insecurity. Moreover, the exploitation of mineral resources (in large-scale and small-scale operations) has severe consequences for the sustainable management of natural resources. By providing adequate training and building stronger multi-disciplinary research capacities, UNILU, together with the local stakeholders, could make a significant contribution towards improving the situation, but the lack of public funding has so far prevented UNILU from fully taking up this role. Through adequate training, the creation of specialized Master programmes and the preparation of a future an Socio-Environmental Observatory (within which existing specialized research centres will be integrated and others will be created), the enhancement of a critical mass of research leadership via PhD-qualified researchers, service to society and professionalization of the master cycle, the IUC programme will co-design and improve, by 2032, an interdisciplinary socio-ecological framework regarding biodiversity and climate change, environment, urbanization, health, governance, security, entrepreneurship, agro-pastoral sector and communities’ productivity and job training.

IUC project with UNILU (DR Congo) (2021-2031)- Flemish Team Leader SP 2

Environment and Health

This project proposes to clean up ecosystems affected by mining activities to improve the environmental quality and health of the KCA population by reducing and preventing exposure to the adverse health effects of mining and providing appropriate health care. In the medium term, the project aims to strengthen UNILU and the KCA region with human and material resources to understand the ecosystem, health and urbanization problems resulting from mining activities and to propose appropriate solutions. In the long term, this project aims to make UNILU a regional reference institution on strategies to improve the quality of the environment polluted by mining activities; and to provide care for health problems related to environmental disturbances caused by mining activities and unplanned urbanization associated with high population pressure.

IUC project with UMI (Morocco)(2017-2027)- Flemish Team leader SP 6

Establishment and reinforcement of the training, research and service capacities to society of a Cluster of Competences in the valorisation of natural and synthetic compounds of the Region's plant resources and their therapeutic effects (CC-PAM)

The overall impact sub-project 6 aims at is that UMI contributes to a  sustainable development of the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAP) sector and enables local communities to benefit from an improved socio-economical context in the region of Fez-Meknes. To reach this impact, a number of intermediate changes are necessary and will be our outcome for Phase II of the project:

  • Research capacities and infrastructures at UMI need to be strengthened
  • Students and local stakeholders should benefit from new educational of training programs
  • Local actors should benefit from the cluster of knowledge developed
  • Local actors should benefit from BiomedinaMeknes (B2M) a valorisation platform of MAP
  • B2M should become a hotspot for the sustainable development of the MAP sector
  • To be as efficient as possible, a farmer to farmer program should be implemented within B2M

In all these intermediate changes, the role of UMI is central as UMI and CC-PAM will establish and coordinate B2M that will be embedded within UMI in order to federate pilot and demonstration actions for sustainable development of the MAP sector, all being performed in collaboration with stakeholders

Core Techniques

In vivo:

  • Rat models of cardiac dysfunctions (e.g., myocardial infarction, cardiotoxicity, diabetic cardiomyopathy, …)
  • Imaging of the heart (echocardiography with VisualSonics Vevo 3100)
  • Transplantation of cardiac stem cells
  • Hemodynamic measurements

In vitro:

  • Isolation of adult rat cardiomyocytes (i.e. Langendorff set-up)
  • Electrophysiology (i.e. Patch clamp)
  • Fractional cell shortening measurements (Ionoptix systems)
  • Studying contractile function of isolated aortic rings
  • Isolation and culturing of cardiac stem cells

Cardio Team

Key publications

Cross-linking versus RAGE: How do high molecular weight advanced glycation products induce cardiac dysfunction? Deluyker D. et al – International Journal of Cardiology, 2016 – IF 6.19

Effect of Exercise Intervention on Cardiac Function in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review.

Verboven M. et al – Sports Medicine, 2019 – IF 7.58

Cardiac atrial appendage stem cells engraft and differentiate into cardiomyocytes in vivo: A new tool for cardiac repair after MI.

Fanton Y. et al - International Journal of Cardiology, 2016 – IF 4.64

Reduced force generating capacity in myocytes from chronically ischemic, hibernating myocardium.

Bito V. et al – Circulation Research, 2007 – IF