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Summer School on Cardiovascular Sciences

The programme 2011 will include: pathophysiology, pharmacology, molecular biology and genomics of cardiac and vascular diseases. Emphasis on translation from bench to bedside.

Registration for the Summer School 2011 is not yet open. Please stay tuned to this page for further information.
Meanwhile read the summary on the Summer School 2009 below.

In 2009 the Summer School brought together 80 postgraduate students and early postdoctoral researchers in the beautiful setting of the European Heart House, headquarters of the European Society of Cardiology, under the tranquil skies of the Côte-d’Azur.

The approximately equal numbers of men and women who attended were drawn for 26 ESC member countries; their interests were equally split between vascular and myocardial biology. Approximately one quarter of the delegates benefited from a medical training. A faculty of 20 basic and clinical scientists gave their time freely.

The School comprised 2 keynote, 5 plenary and 6 parallel sessions with 31 lectures over 4 days. In addition, 3 breakout sessions on “How to write a paper or a grant” or “How to give a lecture” were organized in a more interactive format. A further 3 breakout sessions addressed the questions of gender equality in cardiology treatment and scientific careers, as well as intellectual property rights and protection and the influence of deprivation on cardiovascular disease.

The Programme

The programme started with an introductory keynote lecture by William Wijns,ESC Board Member and President of the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions (EAPCI). Dr Wijns expounded the priorities for cardiovascular medicine for the 21st century and provided his clinical perspective on the role of basic science in meeting these new challenges. He also focused on the benefits of “bedside-back-to-bench” communication between clinicians and scientists, citing examples of “second life” to drugs emanating from clinicians’observations of unexpected or off-target effects, the exploitation of pleiotropic effects of statins, improvement of endothelial function with ACE inhibitors and attenuation of cardiac remodelling with spironoloactone.

Plenary Sessions

One plenary session was devoted to inflammation not only at the origin of the atherosclerotic plaque development but also post-ischemic cardiac remodelling and heart failure; subsequently novel encouraging data on the prevention of atherosclerosis in animal models using anti-inflammatory treatments and immuno-modulation were presented.

An afternoon plenary session was devoted to “Experimental Methods for the 21st Century”, where the advantages and limitations of model organisms, such as chick embryos and chimeras, zebrafish and transgenic mouse models of angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis were presented; this was completed by the presentation of the power and complexity of combined genomic, metabolomic and proteomic analysis starting from tissue (including human) down to single cells.

Oxidant stress was the focus of the Tuesday morning plenary session, from basic biochemical concepts to the role of reactive oxidant radicals in signaling and pathophysiological damage to the endothelium. Its implication in both protection of the preconditioned myocardum against reperfusion damage and trigger of mitochondrial transition pore opening for cellular apoptosis was presented.

Wednesday started with a crystal clear introduction to the new area of microRNAs. This was followed by a review of epigenetic modulation of gene expression through DNA methylation, histone acetylation. The session was completed with an insightful analysis of the power and limitations of bio-informatic tools currently used to handle the myriad of data points generated by high-throughput genomic and proteomic techniques.

A special lecture entitled “A success story in translational medicine”. was given by Prof. Desiré Collen. Prof Collen, who is famous all over the globe for his development of tissue plasminogen activator as a thrombolytic agent, highlighted the importance of intellectual property protection in research. He also gave several fascinating examples of the potential and limitation of intellectual property exploitation in the current drug market..

Highlights from parallel sessions

In one parallel session, the data on the various sources of calcium overload in ischemia-reperfusion were critically reviewed, as well as the various pharmacologic approaches based on the current mechanistic understanding of pre and post-conditioning, allowing students to grasp the conceptual and technical limitations of the experimental approaches used to study this complex pathophysiology. A concomitant session considered the state-of-the-art and future technology to approach therapeutic angiogenesis. The biology was explored of endothelial growth factors and other angiogenic agents, together with the feasibility of exploiting these though gene therapy.

In a parallel session on arrhythmia, the role of “mishandling” of intracellular Na+ and Ca++ was reviewed based on a critical review of the recent literature, and served as basis to introduce potential new pharmacologic treatment of this deadly complication of heart failure. The conjoint session considered the biology of the vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque. The session comprised a mixture of talks addressing basic mechanisms and overviews of imaging and treatment approaches that are in current clinical practice. Results from cutting edge early phase clinical trials of antibody treatments against oxidised low density lipoproteins were especially exciting.

The complex cellular biology of cardiac and vascular stem cells in the formation of embryonic heart and vessels, as well as repair in post-natal organs was reviewed, in a parallel session together with recent data on their regulation by specific transcription factors and paracrine autacoids, including from the peripheral nervous system. This was followed by an update on recent (and partly ongoing) clinical trials on regenerative cell therapy for cardiovascular diseases. Meanwhile a second group considered the mechanisms of atherothrombosis and the potential impact of new antiplatelet and anticoagulant therapies in cardiology. Finally, the implications of microparticle formation in pathogenesis and as markers for cardiovascular disease were reviewed.

And more...

There was of course much more: break-out sessions, poster sessions, free evening and interactivity.The plenary poster session and poster "coffee breaks" allowed free exchange between students and faculty members in a relaxed atmosphere. On the last day, selected young scientists were awarded for “best poster”, “best oral presentation” and “best rapporteur from breakout sessions”. Students and faculty also enjoyed a free excursion to a perfume factory in Grasse, the world's capital of perfume. This was followed by dinner and dancing in a beach restaurant at St Laurent du Var, close to Nice.


The benefits of the Summer School for young basic scientists are many. The ESC Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science thanks wholeheartedly the faculty for their availability in this project and the ESC Board for its generosity in voting funds to underpin the initiative, investing in future basic researchers with exceptional potential.

Report from Jean-Luc Balligand FESC and Andrew C Newby FESC