As a cardiologist at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, I have seen first-hand the suffering of patients with severe heart failure and also how limited our current treatment options are. Although heart transplantation is a viable option for some, there will never be enough donor organs to supply the increasing demand of our ageing nation. This motivated me to set up my research group at the University of Sydney/Westmead Institute for Medical Research focusing on novel methods to achieve heart regeneration.
My research group is inspired by the patients who I treat daily. The aim is to create effective treatments for patients with injured hearts (after heart attack for example) so that much needed solutions to the growing epidemic of heart failure can save billions of dollars in health care costs and many future lives.
Our research draws upon the diverse skills that I developed over the past 15 years or so. After my specialist medical and cardiology training, I completed a National Heart Foundation supported PhD at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Here, under the mentorship of Prof Richard Harvey, we identified a previously unknown population of stem cells in the adult mouse heart. During this doctoral training I learned powerful basic science skills including how to use genetic-mouse models to dissect the lineage origins cell populations. This work was subsequently published in Cell Stem Cell (the top journal in the stem cell field, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652240).
I then realised that there may be more power/utility in other forms of stem cells (including pluripotent stem cells) leading me to the University of Washington, Seattle, USA to work with Prof Charles Murry, one of the world leaders in cardiac stem cell translational science. This Fulbright and NHMRC fellowship supported period increased my skills further to include pluripotent stem cell culture and differentiation as well as multiple animal models of cardiac disease. During this period, I was the first to demonstrate that human Pluripotent Stem Cell Derived Cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CM) can be produced in a large enough scale to treat non-human primates and that hPSC-CM can electrically integrate after transplantation into the injured heart. This work was published (first author) in the prestigious journal Nature, and remains highly cited (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24776797).
Cardiovascular diseases, Atherosclerosis, Stem cells
Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease