Sydney researchers part of international collaboration to develop new approaches to treat heart disease

12 June 2015
Research to reveal more about heart regeneration (courtesy VCCRI)

Professors Robert Graham and Richard Harvey from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute are part of an international research collaboration awarded a prestigious grant from the Fondation Leducq to improve our understanding and treatment of cardiovascular disease. 

The human heart shows a limited ability to regenerate following myocardial infarction. Rather than re-growing functional heart tissue in response to a heart attack, the human heart produces a non-functional scar.  

Despite more than a decade of stem cell research - that initially appeared to be very promising in this regard - there is currently no therapy that successfully regenerates heart tissue. One new promising line of research - that this collaboration will explore - is the heart’s limited ability to produce new muscle cells.

This international network of biologists, clinicians and engineers aims to:
1) discover factors that stimulate cardiomyocyte (cardiac muscle cell) division using in vivo models of embryonic and postnatal heart development, natural heart regeneration in zebrafish and mice, engineered human cardiac muscle constructs, and the classical models of tissue regeneration in salamanders;
2) elucidate the mechanism to discover how we might be able to influence mammalian cardiac repair, and
3) develop pre-clinical mammalian models of regenerative therapy through the delivery of cardiomyocyte mitogens and the engineering of cardiac tissue patches from stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.

These approaches will define regulatory mechanisms for heart regeneration and derive new regenerative approaches to cardiovascular disease.

The collaboration - Eliciting Heart Regeneration through Cardiomyocyte Division - is led by Professors Elly Tanaka from Technische Universität Dresden (Germany) and Kenneth Poss, Duke University Medical Center (USA). In addition to Richard Harvey and Robert Graham, other members include Profesors Nenad Bursac, Duke University (USA); Ahsan Husain, Emory University (USA); Bernhard Kuhn, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg (USA); Didier Stainier, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research (Germany) and Eldad Tzahor, Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel).

Funding was awarded by the Fondation Leducq as one of the four programs selected as part of their 2015 Transatlantic Networks of Excellence Program.