Faces of Bioprinting: Meet Casper van der Ven from UMC Utrecht

Name: Casper van der Ven

Occupation: PhD Fellow

Institution: UMC Utrecht


  1. What are you currently using CELLINK technology for?


We have used the INKREDIBLE+ to develop the first human in vitro model of Calcific Aortic Valve Disease, thickening and stiffening of the aortic valve due to calcium buildup in the valve, in a collaboration of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University Medical Centre Utrecht (and others, see Valk, Ven, Blaser et al 2018 – http://www.mdpi.com/2079-4991/8/5/296).

I was awarded the Advanced Microscopic and Nanoscale Technologies Pilot Award by Harvard Catalyst (https://catalyst.harvard.edu/pdf/pilotfunding/Micro_Nano_2016_Awardees.pdf) to research the delivery of microRNA therapeutics into this model (results not yet published). A short article with a photo of our BWH group was featured on the Harvard Medical School website (https://hms.harvard.edu/news/catalyzing-research-innovation) and there is a laymen’s summary of the review on the 3D printed model and miRNA drug delivery for CAVD on Atlas of Science (https://atlasofscience.org/the-road-to-new-aortic-valve-disease-treatment-innovations-in-3d-models-and-drug-delivery/).

Furthermore, I use the INKREDIBLE printers of the Malda group to introduce 3D bioprinting to host workshops for Bachelor and Master students at Utrecht University in various study programmes, including “Biofabrication”, “Biomedical Science”, and “Regenerative Medicine and Technology”.


  1. What sparked your interest to work with 3D Bioprinting?


I realised that 3D printing allows us to create more accurate disease models that:

1) will accelerate the understanding of the pathobiology and molecular pathways that give rise to cardiovascular diseases, and

2) will allow us to identify and validate potential novel therapeutic targets, and

3) screen therapeutics that may potentially affect those targets.

This excites me for it improves the quality of my research, which may hopefully lead to clinical applications sooner, because my goal is to improve the quality of health care, and consequently the quality of life, of patients with cardiovascular disease.


  1. What future projects are you hoping to use CELLINK technology for?


I would like to work with CELLINK on developing a new in vitro disease model of cardiac scar formation. Scar formation reduces the contractility in the heart muscle after a heart attack. An accurate model to study this pathological process is essential. We are developing a model that employs human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs; stem cell derived cardiac muscle cells) and cardiac fibroblasts (connective tissue producing cells) to mimic the disease so that we can study the pathobiology, identify potential therapeutic targets, and test a range of treatment strategies.


  1. What do you find to be most exciting about working with 3D Bioprinting?


For me, the most exciting about 3D printing is the enormous potential it has to innovate scientific research and health care, and to improve the quality of life for people! The broad application of 3D printing in the many fields and disciplines within healthcare and healthcare research allows for wide application of the technique to accelerate research, to improve current treatments, and to develop new treatments. I hope to see a steep increase in the quality of health care due to 3D printing.

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