At the frontier of medicine: using stem cells to repair the heart

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

Associate Professor James Chong from Westmead Institute and the University of Sydney is a practising cardiologist at Westmead Hospital and lab head at the University of Sydney. His clinical interests focus on coronary intervention whilst his research focuses on the potential use of stem cells to regenerate damaged heart muscle tissue.

Heart failure rates are increasing exponentially in Australia and worldwide, and one in two people die within a year of diagnosis. The burden of heart failure is underpinned by the heart’s limited capacity for self-repair.

Excitingly, stem cell researchers now have an ability to create new heart muscle in the laboratory, and this heart muscle beats in the dish.

James’ research explores both the potential for transplanted stem cells to regenerate new heart tissue and as well as using the lab grown heart tissue as a drug screening platform to ensure that new compounds being developed to treat heart injury are not toxic to the heart. 

Dr Sujitha Thavapalachandran, a PhD student in the Chong lab, is exploring whether platelet derived growth factor – a protein that regulates cell growth – might be a potential therapy for patients following a heart attack through improving heart function after attack and reduce arrhythmias.

Listen to James and Sujitha share an insight into their research, their hope for future therapies for their patients and the power of stem cells as a model of disease. 

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