Young researcher receives the Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award

15 September 2017
Dr James Hudson with Centenary Institute award

The 2017 Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award 'In Memory of Neil Lawrence' was awarded to Dr James Hudson from the University of Queensland for his work in creating human heart tissue from stem cells for use in drug screening.

Cardiovascular disease (any heart conditions including diseased vessels, structural problems and blood clots) is the leading cause of death in Australia and remains one of the biggest burdens on the economy. Researching new ways to understand the heart physiology and function, the effects of disease and damage on the heart and ways to treat cardiovascular diseases is an incredibly important area of research.

Dr Hudson and his team are using human heart tissue as a model to study the developmental processes that lead to the loss of the regenerative capacity of the heart muscle cells, a capacity that disappears shortly after birth in mammals. Moreover, they are using these heart models to identify new drugs that may re-activate regeneration in adult hearts and patients with heart failure.

The teams recent work builds on recent publications on the development and characterisation of stem cell derived human heart tissue published in Circulation and regenerative models published in Development. Their most recent research paper, titled “Functional screening in human cardiac organoids reveals a metabolic mechanism for cardiomyocyte cell cycle arrest”, was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science (PNAS) journal. Typically stem cell-derived cardiac cells are immature, fetal-like. In this paper, they miniaturised the human heart tissues for drug screening, found new conditions to promote unprecedented maturation of the cardiac cells, and identified new small molecules which can reactivate regeneration in mature human heart tissue. This research is providing potential new targets for regeneration in patients with cardiac disease.

While many decades of heart research in mice could lead to new regeneration drugs for heart failure, Dr Hudson believes that also using human heart tissue for screening may help to get to this goal more quickly and effectively.

Dr Hudson’s lab also have multiple projects underway to study cardiac disease using human heart tissue. These include diseases caused by environmental damage (eg. diabetes) or genetic disorders (eg. childhood cardiomyopathies). They aim to make mechanistic insight into these diseases and eventually discover new drug targets for these diseases.

Congratulations James!

The Centenary Institute's Medical Innovation Award recognises bold young researchers who are taking the risks to ask the big questions of today - those questions that have most people saying “but that’s impossible”. The Centenary Institute is a world-leading independent Medical Research Institute

Dr James Hudson is an Affiliate Investigator at Stem Cells Australia. 

For more information
Read more on the Centenary Institute website.