Scientific image Protze lab

Stem cell-derived pacemaker cells currently tested in the Protze lab for their ability to function as a biological pacemaker. Image provided by Stephanie Protze.

People of any age can experience too slow heart rhythm when their pacemaker cells, which regulate heart rhythm, are damaged.

Stephanie Protze, a scientist at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at UHN, is focused on developing a biological pacemaker from stem cells, which could one day be transplanted into a patient to be a long-lasting, potentially permanent, therapy for those with too slow heart rhythm.

“Current treatment involves implantation of electronic pacemaker devices, but they have disadvantages including the recurring need to replace batteries, lack of communication with the nervous system and lack of adaptation to growth in children, which means they will need recurrent surgeries to refit pacemaker wires,” she says.


Stephanie Protze, scientist, McEwen Stem Cell Institute, University Health Network. Photo by Neil Ta.

Protze says it took her lab about five years to develop the functional pacemaker cells that are currently being tested in the lab with promising results. The team aims to move towards initiating human clinical trials within a decade.

As a Medicine by Design investigator, Protze’s Toronto lab was launched in 2018 with support from Medicine by Design.

“I appreciate the interdisciplinary and translational approach of the Medicine by Design program. It has given me an opportunity to collaborate with other labs in the Medicine by Design community to further advance our biological pacemaker cell therapy approach.”

Back to “Five ways Medicine by Design is transforming treatment for cardiac disease.”