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At the frontier of medicine: harnessing stem cells to repair heart function

16 December 2019
Meet Australian researchers who use stem cells to advance our understanding of how the body develops and what happens during disease.

Professor Richard Harvey is the Head of the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Division at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and University of New South Wales. 

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death and disability and current treatments focus on reducing the risk and impact of heart disease. Richard’s lab is interested in exploring whether stem cell components of both cardiomyocytes, heart muscle cells, and the surrounding cell types might be harnessed to restore function of the heart after a heart attack. 

Richard’s lab focuses on the development, function and regeneration of the mammalian heart, and the different layers of information – developmental, cellular, molecular, genetic and epigenetic – that guide these processes. 

His lab uses induced pluripotent stem cells: cells that are derived from mature cells of the body that have been reprogrammed back into stem cells that mimic the characteristics of an embryonic stem cell. 

Read more about their research in At the frontier of tomorrow’s medicine.

The lab uses these cells to grow heart cells and model the developing heart and understand what happens during heart diseases. Richard focuses on whether drugs could be developed to stimulate heart muscle cells to divide and repair damaged tissue.

Research fellow Dr Aude Dorison focuses on tagging and tracking injured cells in animal models with the aim to understand how to improve the heart function after a heart attack.

Listen to Richard and Aude share an insight into their research exploring if they can regenerate the heart, the importance of interdisciplinary science and the excitement they feel when they challenge the nature world and get a read back. 


Australian stem cell researchers are making important discoveries in the lab, that will move research outcomes towards clinical applications. Watch their videos.