Merle Friederike Fenner

PhD student, DVM,

Research Profile:

Born and raised in Flensburg (Germany) near the German-Danish border, I obtained the veterinary degree (DVM) in 2015 at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany.

During my studies in Hannover my major interests were already situated in the field of large animal sciences and especially the horse. My interests were mainly centered on two totally differing subjects, the heart, especially arrhythmias and everything regarding the head, including teeth and paranasal sinuses.

After bridging time with a voluntary research project together with Dr. Astrid Bienert-Zeit (Hannover) and Denis Verwilghen (Copenhagen), dealing with the co-morbidities and surgical complications occurring side by side with paranasal sinus cysts, and an internship at a small animal clinic in Flensburg, I finally was granted a MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS Scholarship (Innovative Training Networks (ITN),Call: H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015) at the Department of large Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen. My PhD project “Establishing a chronic AF horse model for studying the role of SK channels in the heart” is now part of an EU wide training network, the “AFib-TrainNet” - EU Training Network in Novel Targets and Methods in Atrial Fibrillation.

The aim of my project is to establish a chronic AF model in horses for studying the development of AF over time with focus on the role of SK channels in horses and especially the effect of pharmacological blocking of SK channels. Current antiarrhythmic drugs target by inhibiting several ionic currents in the heart which poses the risk of ventricular proarrhythmic effects and other toxicities. This highlights the importance of developing atrial-selective drugs by targeting ion currents predominantly present in the atria - such as SK channels. We are planning on conducting both in vivo studies in living horses as well as ex vivo studies of explanted equine and human atrial cardiac tissue.