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

Ludovic is a Master’s student in Dr. Cecere’s lab who has been trained in iPSC and Cardiomyocyte work. His research focuses on investigating patient sensitivity in response to Doxorubicin, a powerful chemotherapeutic which has cardiotoxic side effect, leading to heart failure.

Ludovic Mouttet
Master’s 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


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

Jana Schuettpelz obtained her PhD in the department of Human Genetics at McGill studying the function of a mitochondrial protein. As a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Hébert’s lab, she is involved in generating cardiomyocytes from patient-derived stem cells and characterizing these.

Dr. Jana Schuettpelz

Giada  is a master’s student focused on understanding morphological and signalling differences between dilated cardiomyopathy patients and controls by using iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes and cardiac organoids.

Giada Castagnola
Master’s 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!


Alyson Jiang – Medical MSc Student

Jeremy Zwaig – Medical MSc Student

David Derish – Medical MSc Student

Dr. Karima Alim – PhD Student

Kashif Khan – PhD Student

Kyla Bourqume – PhD Student

Cara Hawey – MSc Student

Patrick Young – MSc Student

Grace Mazarura – MSc Student

Janice To – MSc Student

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