Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Bianca Brundel
Started: October 2022

Consortium partners

  • Amsterdam UMC
  • Erasmus MC
  • UMC Utrecht
  • Universiteit van Amsterdam 
  • Saxion
  • Netherlands Heart Institute 

About the CIRCULAR-project

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart arrhythmia. More than 350,000 people in the Netherlands alone have been diagnosed with this disease. AF is not necessarily deadly on its own. However, people diagnosed with AF are 5 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than people without this heart condition and are more vulnerable to deadly health conditions including heart failure.

AF negatively affects people’s lives in many ways. People reportedly feel dizzy or stressed, may faint, are not able to pick up daily tasks and are sometimes declared incapacitated to work. Treatments of AF are only effective in some cases, leaving many people untreated . Reasons for the underperformance of treatments are that the root causes of AF are yet to be discovered and expectedly vary per person. Therefore, it’s crucial to move from mass treatment with partly effective technology and tools towards tailor made solutions based on people’s needs.

 The AFIP foundation was set up in 2016 to start this movement. The website provides a platform for people suffering from AF and aims to collect insights from users in order for healthcare professionals to set up new research to discover the molecular mechanisms of AF and possible triggers for episodes. Research groups from Amsterdam UMC and Erasmus MC collaborate with the platform users and set up new medical research based on the leads.

The overall aim of the project CIRCULAR is to stop AF by a holistic approach including co-creation with patients to create scientific breakthroughs in the underlying mechanisms driving AF and societal breakthroughs in personalized therapy and diagnostic development. Hereto, CIRCULAR implements co-creation and a pipeline of aligned animal-free human experimental model systems to bridge the gap between fundamental science and clinical validation. 

What are the components?

The ‘CIRCULAR’ project consists of eight work packages (WPs) with three main research objectives:

I. CORRELATIONS – Utilize personal patient input on triggers and suppressors of AF and correlate these with degree of electropathology and/or AF episodes (WPs 1-3).

II. MECHANISMS – Uncover how triggers and suppressors of AF affect molecular mechanisms and drive electropathology in animal-free experimental AF model systems and uncover diagnostic and drug targets (WPs 4-5).


III. TESTING – Test novel therapies in animal-free, human pre-clinical model systems and patients with AF, and develop automated AF-on-a-Chip model systems for high-throughput screening (WPs 6-8). Our project (patient-stakeholder engagement)


Financially supported by subsidiary NWO; NWA-ORC program.

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