The Heart Of Our Mission

  1. To use patient stem cells to advance our scientific understanding of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
  2. To combine clinical and scientific expertise from multiple disciplines to address the needs of patients with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion.
  3. To innovate treatments for patients with dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure.
  4. To train the next generation of physicians and scientists in cardiovascular translational medicine.

The Heart Of What We Do

  1. Use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to study the molecular pathways that cause heart failure in individual patients.
  2. Apply expertise in cardiovascular biology, assays of cell function, and innovative drug screening.
  3. Integrate clinical information with laboratory data using personalized models of heart function (Heart-in-a-Dish) to obtain patient-specific insight into heart disease.

Interviews with our investigators presenting the project

Dr. Nadia Giannetti
The clinical reason for our research
Dr. Renzo Cecere
The reprogramming of blood cells to cardiomyocytes
Dr. Terry Hébert
Modeling disease in a dish – Studying heart muscle cells one at a time

Research Pipeline


Recruit patients at the heart failure clinic

The Heart-in-a-Dish project starts at the bedside with patients diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Clinical  staff identify and recruit eligible patients.  Their blood samples are collected for our research program.


Collect and process blood samples from patients

The study patient’s blood sample is the starting point…

Blood contains many different types of cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Through a process called centrifugation, we isolate and store specialized white blood cells that can be turned into stem cells.


Reprogram white blood cells to induced pluripotent stem cells

Our research team transforms patient blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – cells capable of being turned into any cell type in the human body. We do this by introducing specialized factors into patient cells. Rigorous quality control is performed before using them for experiments.

The entire process takes on average three months, start to finish!


Differentiate stem cells into any cell of the body

Once patient-specific stem cells have been obtained, they are further transformed into heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes. This takes about 10-days and these cardiomyocytes can beat on their own.

Our research program allows us to study an individual’s patient heart disease, in a dish!


Perform in-depth analysis

The heart muscle cells generated from a patient’s stem cells are then analyzed in-depth.

Using specialized equipment, we study how individualized heart cells function and respond to stressors and medications.

We link this lab data to patient health data to examine how individual characteristics are related to heart disease and its treatment.


Draw clinically-relevant conclusions, for patient treatment in clinic

Through our patient-based stem cell research platform, our objective is to uncover what causes dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure in individual patients.

The data from the Heart-in-a-Dish program will hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective, personalized treatment for patients with heart failure.


Meet the HID Team


Dr. Nadia Giannetti trained at McGill and Stanford University. She is an attending Cardiologist and an Associate Professor at McGill. She is the Medical Director of the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at the MUHC. She is a co-author of several Canadian Heart Failure and Heart Transplant Guidelines. She has led multiple clinical trials as a local PI. She is the former Chief of Cardiology and is presently the Associate Physician-in-Chief (Department of Medicine) at the MUHC.

Dr Nadia Giannetti MD
Co – investigator

Natalie Gendron is the lead research nurse for the Courtois Cardiovascular Signature clinical team and Project Manager for Heart-in-a-Dish protocol. She has been involved in multiple cardiovascular clinical trials with pharmaceuticals as well as local investigators. She is involved in patient recruitment, data review and the liaison with Dr. Cecere and Dr. Hebert’s research teams.

Natalie Gendron RN
Clinical Project Manager – Lead Nurse

Dr. Sonya Hui is a Cardiology resident physician at McGill University. She completed her MSc and PhD at the University of Toronto and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in cardiovascular scientific research. Her academic interests include translational cardiovascular research and personalized medicine.

Dr. Sonya Hui
Junior Clinician Investigator

Abigail Sousa is a Clinical research coordinator, recruits patients with passion and charisma. She ensures all research participants have a good understanding of the protocol, have their questions answered and feel valued by participating in this project.

Abigail Sousa
Clinical Research Coordinator

Leila Haririsanati is a clinical research coordinator and MD from Iran. She is passionate about patient care. She approaches people with kindness, recruits patients and collects samples for the protocol.

Dr. Leila Haririsanati
Clinical Research Coordinator – CMR Core Lab Reader


Dr. Cecere is a cardiac surgeon at the McGill University Health Centre and his research program focuses on the prevention of cardiac disease and cardiac repair. His laboratory’s work involves studying cell-free therapies, elucidating personalized treatments for patients with heart disease, as well as gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes of patient-specific responses to injury.

Dr. Renzo Cecere MD

Ida’s  work investigates patient-specific differences after injury and drug-mediated recovery in iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes from healthy donors and cardiomyopathic patients.

Ida Derish
PhD Student

Elise is a detail-oriented and dedicated member of Dr. Cecere’s laboratory, who is responsible for the reprogramming of patient-derived stem cells and heart cells.

Elise Rody
Research Technician

Jeremy’s research  aims to improve our understanding of the factors secreted by induced pluripotent stem cell derived from cardiomyopathy patients and healthy controls.

Jeremy Zwaig
MSc Student

Dr. Kashif Khan is a Vanier Scholar and has published >20 articles about atherosclerosis, cardiac regeneration, and stem cell biology. As a future clinician-scientist, he is passionate about translating research from bench to bedside.

Kashif Khan
PhD/Medical Student

Since 2021, David has been training in creating lab-grown cardiomyocytes. His project investigates the role of mitochondria and cell death in hypoxia-mediated cardiac damage, bridging his clinical zeal as a medical student with his lifelong passion for research and discovery.

David Derish
Medical Student

Patrick is an Honours kinesiology student with a minor in biotechnology at McGill University. He has been a member of the team since 2021 and is currently researching the cardiotoxic effects and unique patient-cardiomyocyte responses to Doxorubicin.

Patrick Young
Undergraduate Research Trainee

Janice is a student at McGill University, majoring in Pharmacology and minoring in Entrepreneurship. She initiated the iPSC-derived endothelial cells project at the lab and is working on a comprehensive patient-specific hypoxic disease model.

Janice To
Undergraduate Research Trainee


Dr. Hébert has a long track record in understanding the biology of key signalling proteins in cardiovascular disease. His lab’s new focus on induced pluripotent stem cells iPSCs for DCM disease modelling has opened productive new vistas for their work to understand disease progression in individual patients.

Dr. Terry Hébert

Karima’s  project focuses on generating and testing viral versions of the biosensors in iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes to determine how cell context affects signaling.

Dr. Karima Alim
Post-Doctoral Fellow

Kyla’s research focuses on exploring cellular signalling in health and disease using iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes derived from healthy volunteers and patients diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Kyla Bourque
PhD Stem Cell Platform Coordinator

Cara’s project focuses on using iPSC-derived heart muscle cells from dilated cardiomyopathy patients and healthy controls to characterize features of disease.

Cara Hawey
Research Assistant

Alyson is a Master’s student in the Hébert Lab working on characterizing morphological differences between patient-derived iPSC-cardiomyocytes and enhancing their maturity.

Alyson Jiang
MSc Student

Grace’s project uses iPSC-derived cardiac fibroblasts to examine cellular signalling in the fibrotic response, a key process in dilated cardiomyopathy pathogenesis.

Grace Mazarura
MSc Student

A walk through our research project

Clinical team reviewing patient medical history
Dr. Giannetti examining research patient
Research nurse consenting research patient
Blood draw on research patient
Patients biological samples
Cell storage in liquid nitrogen -180 degrees Celsius
PhD student performing maintenance of heart cells performed in aseptic biosafety cell cabinet
Research assistant viewing cardiomyocytes (heart cells)
Stem cell platform coordinator performing an experiment on cardiomyocytes using an automated fluorescent microscope
Patient’s Beating Cardiomyocyte


We have now enrolled over 260 participants in the Heart-in-a-Dish project!

Click here to view our newsletter!


Ludovic Mouttet – MSc Student

Michelle van Holten – Medical MSc Student

Jill Caplan – Undergraduate Research Trainee

Stacey Kastafanas – Undergraduate Research Trainee

Hanwen Wang – Undergraduate Research Trainee

Hooman Sadighian – Research Assistant

Vanissa Savarimuthu – Medical Student

Rose Noël – Medical Student

Alexandre Sheasby – Medical Student

Gabriel Trottenberg – Medical Student

Johanie Victoria Piché – Medical Student

Join Our Research Team

Dr. Nadia Giannetti ​​

Courtois Cardiovascular Signature Program Lead ​​

Associate Professor, McGill University ​

Medical Director Heart Failure and Transplant Clinic ​​

Glen Campus – The Royal Victoria Hospital ​​
1001 Decarie Blvd, Block C, RC.2017 ​​
Montreal, Quebec ​​
H4A 3J1 ​​

Dr. Renzo Cecere

Associate Professor of Surgery, McGill University

Director, Division of Cardiac Surgery

Surgical Director, Heart Failure & Thoracic Transplant Program — Director, Mechanical Cardiac Assistant Program

Glen Campus – The Royal Victoria Hospital
1001 Decarie Blvd, Block C, C07.1284
Montreal, Quebec
H4A 3J1


Dr. Terry Hébert

Professor and Graduate Program Director

Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Assistant Dean, Biomedical Science Education

Director, McGill Regenerative Medicine Network

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, McGill University

Canadian Pacific Chair in Biotechnology

Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics
McGill University
McIntyre Medical Sciences Building
3655 Promenade Sir William Osler, Room 1303
Montréal, Québec
H3G 1Y6


Resources for researchers


Hawey C., Bourque K., Derish I., Zwaig J., Khan K., Cecere R., Hébert T.E. Characterizing idiopathic forms of dilated cardiomyopathy using patient-derived iPSC-CMs. Till & McCulloch Meeting, 2021.

Jiang A., Bourque K., Hawey C., Mazarura G., Sadighian h., Hébert T.E. Maturation and phenotyping of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy patient-derived iPSC-cardiomyocytes. Till & McCulloch Meetings, 2021.

Derish I, Cecere R. Generation of Patient-Specific Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes for Disease Modelling and Pharmacological Testing: The Heart in a Dish Study. Stikeman Visiting Professorship for Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery – McGill University. 2021. [Invited for Oral Presentation].

Hawey C. & Tibbits G. Using patient-derived iPSCs to characterize underlying features of dilated cardiomyopathy. MRM Talks [Invited Oral Presentation].

The Heart-in-a-Dish project is made possible by the generous donations of the Courtois Foundation and MUHC Foundation

A special thank you to Mrs. Sharon Steinberg for the donation to the project.

Media Interviews

CTV News Montreal report: Heart-in-a-Dish
November 30, 2022 / Posts
Montreal woman donates to stem cell research with hopes it will help her and others.
Read More
Podcast – A fascinating and futuristic research project
November 30, 2022 / Posts
This week on Health Matters, Tarah Schwartz speaks with Dr. Nadia Giannetti about the fascinating Heart-in-a-Dish project.
Read More
At the heart of precision medicine
November 30, 2022 / Posts
New translational collaboration aims to transform approach to heart muscle disease
Read More
CBC News Montreal report: Heart-in-a-Dish
November 4, 2022 / Posts
Discover the incredible Heart-in-a-Dish project! Sharon Steinberg details her connection to this project with Dr. Nadia Giannetti and her team. Watch the CBC report.
Read More